Recent posts in my Children and Teenagers Category

February 8, 2012

Three things adults need to know about teens, Facebook and privacy

Last week at news:rewired I was talking about the Guardian’s Facebook app. During the Q&A after my talk, the topic of privacy cropped up several times, especially with regard to younger people using the Facebook platform. Here are three important things that I think adults should know about when they are discussing privacy amongst teenagers.

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January 18, 2012

“Steam multiplied muscle, but computers multiply thought” - Sinclair digital literacy rallying cry from 1983

A 1983 advert for Sinclair Computers still rings true as a rallying cry for digital literacy in our schools.

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January 17, 2012

Digital literacy for all - still a long way to go...

I’ve been wholeheartedly behind the Guardian’s digital literacy campaign. But how do we stop looking like nerdy zealots - who who would give up programming contractor rates for a teaching salary?

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September 24, 2011

iPads, kids and design lessons for adults - Wouter Sluis-Thiescheffer & Brian Pagán at EuroIA 2011

I’m trying to keep up the pace with “live blogging” the sessions from EuroIA as soon as they finish today, but there was so much packed into Wouter Sluis-Thiescheffer & Brian Pagán’s talk that I didn’t quite manage to write it up in the fifteen minute break that followed. It was fantastic though - and really great fun as well as useful. And please excuse an above average number of typos...

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April 11, 2011

Designing for and with children - Hubert Anyżewski & Agnieszka Szóstek at the Polish IA Summit

I’ve just come back from Poland, where I was giving the opening keynote session at the Polish IA Summit. This is the first of a series of posts about the sessions I saw there, looking at two presentations that featured designing for or with children.

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March 3, 2011

Guardian launches Children's Books site in time for World Book Day

Today is World Book Day, and The Guardian has launched a new area of the website dedicated to Children’s books. Broken up into three main reading age groups, a lot of the direction and content of the site has been driven by a panel of children that were recruited at the tail-end of last year. I’ve been very impressed with the way the editorial team have been so inclusive of the children as the site developed, which has included consulting them on the design and getting feedback on some dummy runs of the podcast that goes with the site. Doing online community that involves children adds a lot of complexity to a project, and they’ve still handled it in a user-centred way.

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August 17, 2010

A-Level ritual (slight return)

It is that time of year again when I feel compelled to moan about the way that the media reports A-Level results, although this year, at least one journalist has put their money where their mouth is, and sat one of the exams.

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November 10, 2009

"My first term" - a seventies pull-out in a noughties local paper?

I'm the kind of person who still buys a local paper, and this week in the Waltham Forest Guardian I noticed a feature I found distinctly odd. "My First Term" is an 8 page pull-out compiling school classroom pictures from a variety of nearby local authorities. The geographical range covered is quite wide, including Walthamstow, Woodford Green, Loughton and Waltham Abbey. Initially, I couldn't help but be surprised that, in these days of media paedosteria, the paper was trying to...
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September 22, 2009

The Guardian's children's comics: Part 2 - Roy of the Rovers

Last week The Guardian and The Observer published a series of reproduction comics from the 1970s and 1980s, and yesterday I blogged about some of the transformations they illustrated in the relationship between reader and publisher. Today I want to focus on examples from the 19th December 1981 issue of Roy Of The Rovers. The 'team chart' One of the weekly features of Roy Of The Rovers was a chart for you to fill in to track your team's progress....
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September 11, 2009

"Breakfast with the Voicebot"

On Tuesday morning I visited Sidekick Studios near London Bridge to have 'Breakfast with the Voicebot'. The robot looked somewhat less human than the illustration on the invite. To be honest, it didn't look like it was capable of wrenching itself free from its base and going on a strangling and mangling rampage, which I always find slightly disappointing when I've been promised a robot. It is the type of machine usually used on car production lines to perform menial...
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August 17, 2009

A monkey could also write the annual stories knocking A-Level students

This week is one of my least favourite weeks of the year, as the annual media game begins of knocking the achievements of our children at school. Rather than write another whole rant on the topic, here are links to a few I made earlier. Is Britain’s brightest A-Level student a boy or an anonymous photogenic teenage girl? - August 2007 Do boys even take A-Levels these days? - August 2006 It must be nearly A-Level time again - August...
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August 12, 2009

Baby P killer images lose their impact online

As the clock turned midnight on Monday night, the anonymity order preventing the publication of the names of Baby P's killers expired, and it was obvious which images were gong to dominate the press front pages the next morning. The chance to vilify Tracey Connelly and Steven Barker by name was something hitherto denied our newspapers, even though the public could find them out with just the briefest of Google searches. Since the deadline was in the middle of the...
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July 7, 2009

Activate 09 at The Guardian: Notes and take-away quotes - Part 3

Last week I was lucky enough to go to The Guardian's first Activate summit - a one day conference at Kings Place which brought together politicians, economists and technologists to discuss the future shape of the world. Today I wanted to pick up another thread that ran through the day - data and story-telling. Arianna Huffington described story-telling as "mankind's greatest gift". Personally I reckon fire is probably up there as well, but let's not quibble. She was responding...
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June 28, 2009

Sale Water Park making audience research fun for kids

One of the things I advocate when trying to do user-centred web application design is to take every possible opportunity to talk to real users to get their input into the process. That can range from running focus groups, carrying out online surveys, undertaking controlled testing in lab conditions, or just plonking myself down next to people in cafes and 'ambush' user-testing them with Silverback. I'm always on the look-out for ways that other organisations carry out this kind of...
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March 9, 2009

Isn't teenage social networking just the new rock'n'roll?

I was alerted - via Twitter, where else? - to the fact that Nicky Campbell's "The Big Questions" show on Sunday morning had a section on teenagers and social networking. You can watch it on iPlayer for the next 6 days. [1] The consensus amongst the audience seemed to be that social networking was damaging the social development of teenagers. I happen to believe that this is an area where an astonishingly wide generation gap has rapidly opened up. Put...
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November 17, 2008

Protecting the identity of Baby P's killers: The courts vs the people vs the Internet

Update 11th August 2009: The court order preventing publication of the identities of Tracey Connelly and Steven Barker has now been lifted. Update 1st May 2009: This story, that one of Baby P's killers was facing additional charges of abuse against a second child, explains why the names had to be kept out of the public domain back in November 2008. Original article from 17th November 2008:The last few days have shown how very difficult it is to keep information...
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November 10, 2008

The evil of searching for 'Gary Glitter'

Personally I remain unconvinced of the power of 70's music to reach out through time and corrupt the youth of today via the medium of guidance notes for exams, but that hasn't stopped the Gary Glitter GCSE 'scandal' being one of the main media storms of the day. For me perhaps the most unintentionally funny bit of it is the quote from the anonymous headmaster in The Sun about his fears when teenagers go online: "He's a convicted paedophile jailed...
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September 5, 2008

More on the Daily Mail and my comments about their 'suicidal five year olds' article

If you are interested in newspapers, the Internet and blogging, you can't have missed the growing blogstorm around the Daily Mail, following an article by Julie Moult that was rather ill-informed about the web. I don't need to pick over the bones of the story itself, as it has been covered in plenty of other places, but I did want to pass comment because my name has been mentioned a couple of times in the course of it. The piece...
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May 16, 2008

Understanding young children and the commercial Internet

"There is a young and impressionable mind out there that is hungry for information. It has latched on to an electronic tube as its main source of nourishment." No, not the Internet, but television in the 1960s according to Joan Ganz Cooney. This is one of those blog posts you can probably file under "I've read it so you don't have to", as I've been ploughing my way through the recently published 58 pages of the 'Like Taking Candy From...
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April 5, 2008

Game for a laugh - Anne Diamond on games in the Daily Mail

I still haven't had a chance to read the recent "Safer Children in a Digital World" Byron Report in full, although from what I've skimmed through so far I'm still sticking by my original opinion when I bookmarked it - that I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't framed in the hysterical tabloid tone that usually accompanies any debate about child safety and new media. The analogies about how we teach our children to swim and cross the road despite...
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December 6, 2007

Sky News give up on the hunt for Madeleine McCann

Well, after over 8 months, it seems that Sky News have given up on the hunt Madeleine McCann. Since May 2007, the single word Madeleine has been the third item on their main navigation - above Politics, World News, above Business and the Weather. That has all changed with today's redesigned homepage. Editor Steve Bennedik has even been moved to blog about it: There's one other change you may already have noticed. We've removed the heading "Madeleine" from the navigation...
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November 25, 2007

Trust me, the Child Benefit data loss risk to children isn't from paedophiles

One thing I noticed in the press coverage of the British Government's abject but predictable failure to protect personal data was this preposterous line of argument in an editorial in the Daily Mail: "The missing discs contain the names, addresses and dates of birth of every child in the country...Wouldn't fraudsters and child abusers give anything to get their hands on them?" Seriously, what are child abusers going to do with this information? Surely, and call me old-fashioned, if paedophiles...
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October 16, 2007

There's only been one unforgettable dinner in Portugal this year

I spotted this advert for tourism in Portugal at Queensway station on my way to work yesterday. Is it just me? Or do you think that, given that the biggest media story in the UK this year has been about a dinner in Portugal that turned out to be unforgettable for all the wrong reasons, promoting the country with the strapline "To be an unforgettable dinner" is a little ill thought out?...
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August 16, 2007

Is Britain’s brightest A-Level student a boy or an anonymous photogenic teenage girl?

This one is as regular as clockwork on the site - the A-Level results come out, and I start moaning about the depressing and sexist coverage of it - here’s one I made earlier in 2003. Who’d think that boys even took A-Levels these days? And if teenagers do manage to perform well in the exams, well, then they are obviously worthless bits of paper anyway. And everybody wonders why teenagers in Britain appear to suffer from low self-esteem...
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June 1, 2007

Who benefits financially from the Madeleine McCann publicity juggernaut?

I noticed towards the end of this week that, alongside the rumours of journalist frolics in Portugal whilst following the Madeleine McCann case, a couple of columnists have broken rank with the default position of their newspaper. Today on The Time's site Stefanie Marsh has been called "a very lonely, sad, selfish person" for her piece "I confess: I have not been agonising about Madeleine". There has been disquiet expressed in the Telegraph, and yesterday it was Amanda Platell...
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May 28, 2007

Madeleine McCann and Alex Meschisvili - a culture contrast

The disappearance of Madeleine McCann in Portugal hasn't made the TV news bulletins or English language press here in Greece, but as I still follow a lot of what goes on in the media in the UK, I have seen the acres of coverage devoted to the story at the other end of the continent. One trend that seems to be emerging in these high profile media scrum "Diana moments" in recent years is the intimate involvement of suspects or...
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May 16, 2007

Games and Social Networking driving more young Greeks to use the internet?

I merited a brief mention in this post on the UrbanGreeks blog about internet activity in Greece - "Internet: The Nerdy Kid That Nobody Wants to Play With". I get quoted about my ordeal trying to get even a basic phone-line from OTE, the state monopoly provider here. "My experience of trying to get a connection set up here didn't do much to counter theory [that OTE are a major bottleneck to internet access]. Once the paperwork is done it...
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March 28, 2007

The Sun using blogs to solicit amateur Page 3 Girl style photos

When The Sun first launched their MY Sun social networking / blogging / message-board platform last year, I wondered how long it would be until they started soliciting topless pictures of their reader's wives. I didn't have to wait too long. I don't know if it is strictly the first time they have done it (given their Page 3 Idol competition a couple of months back), but during the run-up to Easter, in their "Easter Bunny" competition (first prize...
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March 20, 2007

BBC Jam closes today - how far will the repercussions be felt?

Today sees the suspension, pending review, of BBC Jam, the BBC's digital curriculum service, which was announced last week by the BBC Trust. Last week I littered my initial reaction liberally around various comment boxes on the web, but having had a bit of time to gather my thoughts on the subject, four points stand out for me 1) The loss of business to the independent web sector The complaints portray the BBC as a massive well-funded elephant that...
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March 14, 2007

Blue Peter fakes competition result - in the Middle East?

It has not been a good day for the BBC so far. First up was the announcement that the BBC Trust is suspending the expensive digital curriculum project BBC Jam for review, following increasinging complaints from the private sector that the BBC has not kept to the conditions under which it was granted permission to launch the project. Then in a development that will shock thirty-and-fortysomethings across Britain, Blue Peter has admitted to faking the results of a competition. It...
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February 27, 2007

Now the Daily Mail is twisting MY words about ChildLine

I wrote yesterday about the Daily Mail's initial online reporting of a ChildLine survey into the types of calls they had been receiving from children in 2005/6. I also took the time to post a comment on the Daily Mail's story, making the same point - namely that their reporting had extrapolated a conclusion from the figures that wasn't supported by the evidence. At no point in their report or press release did ChildLine claim that suicidal 5 year olds...
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February 26, 2007

The Daily Mail distorts Childline's report on youth mental health in the UK

It is always sad to see the suffering of someone used in a cheap way to make an eye-catching headline, and there is an absolute classic on the front of the Daily Mail's website today. 'Suicidal five-year-olds calling helpline' The alarming decline in the mental health of Britain's youth was revealed today after it emerged that suicidal children as young as five contacted ChildLine. The Daily Mail story follows the release today of a report on the use of the...
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November 17, 2006

Media coverage of a shocking sex attack in Greece

One story that hasn't been making me homesick for Greece has been a terrible tale that has emerged there of the gang-rape of a 16 year old schoolgirl by her classmates. It is alleged that four boys took it in turns to rape the girl in the school toilets. As far as I am aware only one British newspaper has reported on it, but the more that emerges of the story in the Greek press and on blogs, the more...
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November 11, 2006

Nostalgia for Airfix ain't what it used to be

The British toy business world had big news this week when Hornby (small models of trains) bought up the brand of Airfix (small models of planes). These is a lot of press coverage, although I haven't spotted anyone yet blaming Airfix's decision last year to move towards snap-together robotic kits as a reason for the company's final decline. Everyone is much keener to put the boot into computers, TV and the internet. There was a great paragraph in the Guardian's...
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October 27, 2006

Writing headlines to whip up a frenzy of comments about kids

You have to hand it to the Daily Mail, which certainly knows how to write headlines online to whip up a storm. Today's prime example is their story "Outcry as brother and sister get ASBO for playing in the street" The thing is, it simply doesn't appear to be true. By the time you click through to the article, the assertion "get ASBO" has already been watered down to "face Asbo" in the slightly less dramatic "Siblings face Asbo for...
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October 23, 2006

Some six year olds are not very good at geography

The "finding" that 1 in 5 UK school children can't point to the UK on a map is currently whizzing around the internet and being reported as far afield as Australia - "Q: Where is the United Kingdom? A: You're standing in it " - and India. Funnily enough, most people don't seem to be reporting it as "commercial company selling geography magazine aimed at children releases headline grabbing statistic which suggests parents need to buy their children geographic...
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October 6, 2006

MySpace's teenage audience - up or down?

I sometimes wonder if bloggers and journalists should be sent on some kind of mathematics boot camp before they are allowed to write articles based on statistics. Yesterday comScore put out a press release pointing out that there had been a demographic shift amongst MySpace users in the last year, with the percentage of users in the 12-17 age bracket dropping from 24.7% to 11.9% Cue a slew of articles saying that MySpace was going out of fashion."Those teenagers are...
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September 28, 2006

An exam by any other name

I see that yesterday the Labour Party announced that unsupervised GCSE coursework is to be abandoned, in order to stop people cheating by using the internet. I initially couldn't work out if that devalued my GCSEs, which I took in the first year they were offered. On the one hand it is obvious the government is saying that pupils can't be trusted to work on their own, and since I worked unsupervised, I may have cheated. On the other hand,...
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September 24, 2006

Exposing children in the press to protect them from online harm

I spent the weekend in Edinburgh, and on my flight to London I was given a complimentary copy of the Scottish edition of the Mail on Sunday. They had an interesting story about online privacy for children, under the headline "Anger as gay fathers post pictures of their children on dating site". As far as I can tell, it is one of those pieces that the Mail doesn't have the legal confidence to publish online as well as in print....
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September 8, 2006

Keeping the North West safe and sound

Following my post the other week about the National Rail network's "No Messin'" campaign, one of the team behind another child safety campaign got in touch with me. "Safe and Sound" is a CD-ROM distributed to schools in the North West of England, which features the adventures of Safe and Sound, the top under-12's sound system in the North West. I really liked the approach they'd taken - for example encouraging low level nuisance behaviour like changing the desktop picture...
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September 1, 2006

What do you remember about the news when you were nine?

On the BBC Editors Blog, Newsround editor Tim Levell has been asking people to recall what they remember from the news when they were nine. I must have been a news junkie even then though, as I remembered loads of the events quite clearly. It must have helped that we usually sat down for our family meal around 6pm with the news on in the background. Looking at the list of significant events from October 1980 to September 1981, when...
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August 23, 2006

There's just no messin' with the kids

When I was around Euston to look at the exhibition of new Victoria Line rolling stock, I also noticed a big promotional display for No Messin'! No Messin'! is, in their own words: Network Rail's youth safety brand created to reach an audience that is cynical of authority, media savvy and hard to influence. No Messin'! rejects the traditional 'just say no' approach and gives kids positive alternatives to hanging out on the railway Trespassing on the railway is a...
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August 18, 2006

Do boys even take A-Levels these days?

Time for my annual A-Level joust with the British media. There was a shot across the bows last week, but over the last couple of days I’ve been keeping a watchful eye on the way the press portrays the results process. Across print and the web it was pretty much the same old, same old - lots of pictures of very successful girls, and not a hint that boys can achieve academic success. The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily...
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August 11, 2006

It must be nearly A-Level time again

As luck would have it I am back in the UK for one of my favourite British events of the year - the mainstream media A-Level results frenzy. Or as I've come to think of it - a load of journalists who haven't had to sit an academic exam for years denigrating the hard efforts of a load of children who are emotionally at the age where they are probably least equipped to deal with failure in front of their...
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August 4, 2006

ID Cards making the net a more dangerous place for kids

Easy to forge, lures child (and parents) into false sense of security. Stupid rip-off. Crystaltips sums it up pretty well on her link to a story from BBC News yesterday about a new online safety ID card being promoted for children. The ID scheme was set up by UK businessman Alex Hewitt after he discovered that his daughter could only verify the age and identity of a third of her 150 online friends. He said: "People want to feel...
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July 29, 2004

Murder by Playstation?

I haven't read the story (the print is very small in this picture), but from the strapline I assume it isn't about someone being bludgeoned to death with the blunt instrument of a Playstation console. ....but don't even get me started on their new gimmick of recycling links that were going round the internet like wildfire a few months ago as front page promoted "features". Sheeesh....
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February 6, 2004

Today is European Safer Internet Day

February 6th is the European Commission sponsored Safer Internet Day "The aim of this very important day is the celebration of children's rights to a Safer Internet by highlighting to everyone that it is the responsibility of all sectors of society to become involved and promote this worthwhile cause."...
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January 13, 2004

Children, the Internet, and media sensationalism

A major story in the UK yesterday was the release of a report by the NCH - Child abuse, child pornography and the internet [PDF file: 201k]. This was widely reported as including the staggering statistic that child pornography crimes have "rocketed" by 1,500 per cent. (BBC News / Guardian with comment pieces from Rachel O'Connell and the report's author John Carr / Independent). The reasons I use the word 'staggering' are because unlike The Independent, I don't think...
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September 24, 2003

MSN will protect your children

...following on from MSN ditches chat - Gillian Kent urges everybody to adopt Instant Messenger Exercise one 1. Open MSN Messenger client 2. Select contacts >> Search for a contact >> Search by interest 3. Select Teens from the MSN Member Directory. [Note that despite the .com urls the address is the logo in the top right-hand corner] 4. View a list of children in the uk who have given out their username, age, gender and interests out...
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MSN ditches chat - Gillian Kent urges everybody to adopt Instant Messenger

MSN is ditching unmoderated chat - various interest groups are either overjoyed, or like the Freeserve spokesperson quoted in this Register article, think MSN is just ducking out of the market to save money. Closing down unmoderated chat is certainly an interesting move - Director of MSN UK, Gillian Kent, appeared on BBC News 24 around 9:40 this morning, and did an excellent job of talking up the risks of chat whilst pushing customers towards Instant Messenger. "Most of...
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August 13, 2003

The English media's A-Level summer ritual

I should have put it in my diary, but I forgot that tonight is the last night before the A-Level media frenzy. Although individual grades won't arrive until the post tomorrow, the overall figures are delivered at midnight, just in time for tomorrow's newspapers and the breakfast shows of 24 hour news outlets. What a considerate media friendly government we have. And my predictions: If the pass rate has gone up it will be evidence of the dumbing down...
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January 13, 2003

Searching for Pete Townshend

I don't care how they boast about their index size or their refresh rate, search engines are still not cutting it with freshness. A classic examples in the UK is the news story over the weekend concerning Pete Townshend and child pornography (another UK witch-hunt courtesy of Paul Dacre at the Daily Mail). It should not be difficult for a search engine to pick up a sudden rise in searches for such a specific topic, and then have either...
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