Recent posts in my The Guardian Category

January 25, 2013

You can’t please all the commenters all of the time

The Guardian swapped flat comment threads for ‘nested’ ones. The Manchester Evening News swapped ‘nested’ for flat. Guess what happened next…

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January 17, 2013

Was the Guardian right to open comments on their Vauxhall helicopter crash live blog?

The Guardian’s website has been no stranger to controversy over the last couple of weeks, and yesterday was no exception, with the decision to have comments open on the live blog of the unfolding reporting of the helicopter crash in London.

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December 27, 2012

The Guardian publishes stats on the size of their commenting community

I don’t want to unnecessarily poke the hornet’s nest that is user reaction to the Guardian’s introduction of nested comments, but Chris Elliott’s recent column about it contains one fascinating stat, which I don’t think has been made public before. It has implications for the amount of time and effort you might care to expend on the community on your news sites.

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December 14, 2012

The rise and #fail of the Guardian Facebook app

This week the Guardian has announced they are changing the way that they integrate with Facebook, by closing the app that I helped design and launch. It is the perfect moment to reflect on why the app was designed as it was, and what did and didn’t work.

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December 6, 2012

“Curating social media during Hurricane Sandy for the Guardian” - Katie Rogers at news:rewired

At news:rewired the Guardian’s Katie Rogers was talking about how the US arm of the paper used social media to cover Hurricane Sandy as it landed on their New York doorstep. Here are my notes from her talk.

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November 9, 2012

Guardian comment system changes: The perils of designing for all users, not just the vocal ones

The Guardian are currently trying out some changes to their commenting system. Like most changes to a major website, the backlash amongst some users is very, very vocal, and everybody gets to watch.

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October 23, 2012

Guardian responsive redesign beta gets web fonts

This week some of my ex-colleagues at the Guardian unveiled the latest update to their public beta of a responsive redesign - using a version of Guardian Egyptian that has been hinted for the web.

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July 29, 2012

“Keeping the Torch Burning” - editing an Olympics book for the Guardian

With barely 3-and-a-half days to go to the opening ceremony, I finally finished editing a book about protest, terror and dissent at the Olympics Games for the Guardian. It is based on a series of blog posts I wrote in the run-up to Beijing in 2008, supplemented with a generous delve into the Guardian’s archive of over a hundred years of reporting the Olympics. As has become the custom, here is the “DVD extra behind-the-scenes editor’s commentary” on putting the book together.

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July 9, 2012

I “Agree/Disagree” with reaction buttons in Facebook apps

A few weeks ago I spotted a tweet by Gary Ellis of Razorfish criticising “naff, lazy functionality” in the Guardian Facebook app, namely the “Agree/Disagree” buttons that appear on comment pieces. “Bit like the ‘Right/Wrong’ dial from Brass Eye” he said. So why do it?

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June 25, 2012

Editing the Guardian’s “Battle for the Internet” ebook

The Guardian recently published another ebook that I’ve edited for them: “ Battle for the Internet An open democracy or a walled garden?”. As has quickly become a tradition, here are my DVD extra behind-the-scenes thoughts on the editing process.

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June 22, 2012

My Guardian career...the last word

I didn’t always get positive feedback about some of the things I tired to do when I was at the Guardian...

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June 21, 2012

Goodbye Guardian

Today has been my last day as a permanent member of staff at the Guardian...

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June 20, 2012

A Euro2012 victory for the Guardian’s live blogging tools

The Guardian hit an exciting milestone last night with our Euro2012 coverage - the first time that an England game has been live blogged using our new system.

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May 23, 2012

Situation vacant: Head of UX at the Guardian

This week the Guardian started looking for a replacement Head of User Experience.

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May 10, 2012

“Do you want your internet to work? Yes/No”

There was an interesting post on the eConsultancy blog from Graham Charlton yesterday about the forthcoming changes that mean websites are being obliged to obtain consent for the use of cookies.

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May 8, 2012

The ups and down of Facebook Social Reader traffic

There has been quite some hoo-ha on the web suggesting that Facebook “Social Reader” apps are dying, based on a piece written by BuzzFeed’s John Herrman - “Facebook social readers are all collapsing”. I worked on the Guardian’s app - here’s my take on it.

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April 18, 2012

The Guardian and @911tenyearsago - several months on

Live tweeting the demise of the Titanic in real-tile seemed acceptable, yet a few months back the Guardian was severely criticised for taking a similar approach to tweeting the events of 9/11. Here are some thoughts on why that earned criticism and why it was right for the tweeting to be halted.

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April 16, 2012

Cookies, tracking, and the ethics of ad-blocking

A recent look at how tracking cookies work by the Guardian has had me joining in the comments explaining my position on ad-blocking. I’ve never run ad-blocking software or extensions in my browser, and I never will. Here’s why...

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April 12, 2012

I’m leaving the Guardian

The title says it all - after three-and-a-bit years I’m going to be leaving the Guardian

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April 11, 2012

A handful of lessons from beta testing features on the Guardian’s website

If you subscribe to the theory that you should “release early, release often”, and that you want to “fail fast” and learn from those failings, then you end up in a world where you should be regularly testing variations of your digital product on your audience. If you don’t go about it the right way, this can be a bruising experience for all concerned. Today I wanted to outline some thoughts prompted by a recent trial of threaded comments on the site that I was involved in.

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April 1, 2012

How 3D wireframes help UX and Agile work better at the Guardian

For almost as long as I’ve been a user experience practitioner, the issue of how UX deliverables interact with an Agile project has been a vexed one. At the Guardian we’ve been trying a new technique based on a very old optical illusion - the red/blue anaglyph 3D technique - with startling results.

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March 29, 2012

A busy time for Guardian Beta

It has been a busy couple of weeks on the Guardian Beta site. Over the last few days we’ve launched or started testing several new products. Here are some of the details.

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March 22, 2012

“A seismic shift in our referral traffic” - how the Guardian’s Facebook app eclipsed Google

Since we launched it back in September I’ve been constantly monitoring Twitter for feedback and reaction to the Guardian’s Facebook app. One of my favourite tweets asked this question: “I wonder how much referral traffic The Guardian has lost from Facebook since they implemented their 'Social Reader' agreement..” Yesterday we answered that question in a talk by our director of digital development Tanya Cordrey.

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March 1, 2012

Three things in need of a catchy headline

A quick update on three things I've been involved with recently at the Guardian.

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February 21, 2012

Interviews about Facebook and UX recruitment

I’ve featured in a couple of interviews published over the last few days about the Guardian’s Facebook app and my ideas on UX recruitment.

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February 17, 2012

“Social media optimisation” - Q&A at news:rewired

A couple of weeks ago I was part of a panel session talking about social media optimisation at news:rewired. I was talking about the Guardian’s Facebook app, and the rest of the panel consisted of Darren Waters from MSN, the BBC’s Chris Hamilton, and Nate Lanxon of Wired. Here are some points that came out of the Q&A that followed the talks.

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February 13, 2012

“The alchemy of media business model innovation” - François Nel at news:rewired

François Nel’s talk about media business models at news:rewired drew a massive contrast between the fortunes, financially, of the Mail and the Guardian, and sparked a discussion about the Guardian’s digital strategy which made for some uncomfortable listening for those of us in the audience involved in trying to implement it. Here are my notes from that session - including a big disclaimer reminding you that this is a personal blog...

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February 7, 2012

Interviews, readability and Kindle - My Guardian hack day effort

Last week the Guardian held one of our regular hack days, where the developers (and other people in the tech department) get to spend two days putting aside their regular work, and instead concentrate on a project of their choosing. Here is what I made.

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February 6, 2012

A busy week of hacking and Guardian Beta

A flurry of activity around the Guardian last week as we tried out some new things on our Beta site, and had a two day hack day.

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January 30, 2012

Frictionless or not, on Facebook or not, people love to share on the web

The release of 60 new apps that employ Facebook’s “frictionless sharing” has sparked another round of internet debate about the value of the functionality. Here’s my take.

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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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January 4, 2012

Editing the Guardian’s Facebook ebook

Over the holidays the Guardian published the second ebook collection that I have edited them. Following on from “Who’s Who: The Resurrection of the Doctor”, I’ve tackled “Facebook: The rise and rise of a social media giant”. Here are some notes on the editing process of the book.

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December 14, 2011

UXmas at the Guardian

Last night we threw open the Guardian’s door for “UXmas” - a chance to meet people from the UX and design teams, hear a couple of talks, and eat some mince pies before retiring to the pub.

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November 26, 2011

December’s “Carnival of journalism” is on the Guardian’s Developer blog

I’ve only joined in the Carnival of journalism once this year, back in March, when I wrote “News innovation isn't just about writing code, it is about how we use that code to tell stories.” I'll be much more involved in December though, as I’m helping to host it on the Guardian’s Developer blog.

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November 21, 2011

“Who’s Who: The Resurrection of the Doctor”: Doctor Who ebook confidential

The Guardian has just published the latest in our Guardian Shorts ebook series - “Who’s Who: Ressurection of the Doctor”. I edited the collection. And just as every episode of Doctor Who these days has a behind-the-scenes “Doctor Who Confidential” to go with it, here is the story behind the editing of the book.

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November 6, 2011

Template-free publishing tool Scroll debuts on the Guardian website

At the weekend the Guardian became the first major publisher to experiment with Scroll, a new tool from a New York based start-up which promises to allow users to build magazine-style layouts for the web without having to know any code at all. Benji Lanyado put together a version of the weekend’s lead travel section article using it, and we published that in our new Guardian beta section, as well as publishing the more conventional version.

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October 27, 2011

Hacking, live blogging, and launching “Guardian beta”

I’ve just about recovered from last week’s Guardian Hack Day, where at one point I found myself desperately trying to live blog the event, finish my own hack, and get Guardian Beta launched.

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October 26, 2011

“The future of search” - Martin Belam at Enterprise Search Europe

Yesterday I was at the Enterprise Search Europe conference in London, and helped wrap up the day by taking part in a panel entitled “The future of search”. Here’s a brief round-up of what I said - including the quote above, which I may well adopt as my new motto: “The future is unevenly distributed...and I’m at the shiny end.”

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October 17, 2011

How the Guardian’s iPad app changed the way that I consumed news

We’ve had a lot of products launch over the last few weeks at the Guardian, including Android and Windows phone apps and our Facebook app, but none have been as high profile as our iPad launch. With a design team of Mark Porter, Andy Brockie, Barry Ainslie and John-Henry Barac, you wouldn’t expect it to be anything other than beautiful, and using it has changed the way that I consume news.

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October 12, 2011

Reaction to the Guardian’s Facebook app

It is just over twenty days since we released the Guardian Facebook app. I’ve been engaged with a lot of conversations with people about it on Twitter over the last couple of weeks, and I thought I might put down a few thoughts on the app, and some of the reaction to it.

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September 24, 2011

“The IA of /Culture” - Martin Belam at EuroIA 2011

This is the essay version of the talk I gave yesterday at the EuroIA Summit in Prague.

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September 18, 2011

Comment is free...but trolling is sacred

This week I braved the potential troll hordes of the interwebs with a piece for Comment Is Free about the trolling phenomena, commissioned as part of our coverage of the prison sentence given to Sean Duffy for some unsavoury internet posts mocking the deaths of teenagers. Given the subject matter and the potential audience, I think I got off quite lightly in the comments, especially after it ended up with the headline “All you trolls out there – come out and explain yourself”.

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September 13, 2011

Guardian Shorts ebooks: Paying for curation, not content

I spotted an interesting blog post via Twitter this morning: “Guardian Shorts: The Guardian regurgitates articles on Kindle”, written by Jeroen Kraan on his “My Digital Newsroom” blog. On Twitter he described them as “Not really worth buying, but good effort”. Here are my thoughts.

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September 8, 2011

New Guardian app for Android

We’ve got a shiny brand new Guardian Android app in the Android market place. It is one of several product launches we’ve got planned over the next few weeks, which makes for an exciting (but busy) time. I’m particularly pleased with the Android app though as it is the first big product launch where Karen Loasby has led the UX since she joined me earlier in the year.

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September 6, 2011

How the Guardian’s custom CMS & API helped take content strategy to a traditional publisher

This is the essay version of a talk I gave this morning at the Content Strategy Forum in London - “Taking content strategy to people who already think they have one”. It covers how the Guardian has shifted from traditional to digital publishing, and talks about our CMS, our metadata, our API, and gives my advice for those entering the content strategy field when dealing with traditional publishers.

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August 31, 2011

(What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love, Understanding and the Sport section?

Since helping redesign the front page and sitting with the team for a few days, I’ve been acting as a kind of unofficial pseudo-techie-in-residence in the “You tell us” open thread on Comment is free. They are mostly a good-natured bunch. Unusually today, an information architecture question cropped up in the thread

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UX drop-in at the Guardian

We had our first “UX drop-in” at the Guardian yesterday, and judging by the waiting list to get tickets and the reaction on the day, it won’t be the last. It was quite a simple format - get a ticket, turn up at the Guardian on the day, there will be some short talks, the chance to play with some forthcoming products like our Android app, and some free beer.

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August 17, 2011

Join the Guardian’s UX team

There are a couple of opportunities open at the moment to visit the user experience team at the Guardian. We are having a “drop-in” open day, and there are vacancies.

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August 5, 2011

Help me finish my talk on digital content strategy in a print business

Last night I spoke at a London Content Strategy meetup entitled “Perspectives on Content Strategy”. Normally I’d publish my slides and an essay version of the talk, but this one was a little different. I’m presenting “Taking content strategy to people who already think they have one” at the Content Strategy Forum in London next month, and this was a first run for some of the material.

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August 4, 2011

The Guardian launches 3 million linked data music album pages

This week at the Guardian we launched something like 3 million album pages, allowing users to rate, review and buy just about anything that has ever been released. Well, provided it has a MusicBrainz ID anyway.

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August 2, 2011

“Community management in the newsroom” - The Guardian’s Laura Oliver at Hack/Hackers London

I’ve said on many occasions that I am genuinely baffled how so many news organisations seem to think they can grow an active community on their website, without investing in any community management. At the Guardian we have several people in a role called “community co-ordinator” who fulfill this remit. One of them, Laura Oliver, spoke at the last London Hacks/Hackers meet-up. Here are my notes on four of the key points that Laura made in her talk.

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July 26, 2011

Answering the question: “How can I support the Guardian?”

There has been some debate on Twitter and on the Fleet Street Blues blog about a new page that appeared on the Guardian website last week: “Six ways you can support the Guardian”. The focus has been on the choice of the word “support”, rather than using something more nakedly commercial than “subscribe” or “buy”.

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July 15, 2011

IA lessons from publishing Sarah Palin's email

Chris Elliott, Readers’ Editor at The Guardian, recently addressed the issue of our coverage of the Sarah Palin email release in his Open Door column. The project raised some interesting questions about the information architecture of how we publish this kind of crowd-sourcing exercise on the Guardian website.

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July 14, 2011

The little things

Sometimes you can end up just as proud of some small changes to a website as you are of the big projects. We’ve made a couple of tweaks to the Guardian website recently which fall into that category.

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July 11, 2011

Benji Lanyado on TwiTrips and technology at the Guardian

Over the last few months we’ve been holding a series of talks at The Guardian for staff around the theme of “digital”. Recently it was the turn of Benji Lanyado, who has made a name for himself as the Guardian’s travel writer who goes on #TwiTrips. He arrives in a city, and then relies on people tweeting him with tips and directions to find hidden gems and the things that the locals recommend.

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July 5, 2011

“Information Architects: The Secret librarians of the internet” talk at LIKE26

Last week I spoke at the 26th meeting of LIKE, the London Information and Knowledge Exchange. With the title “Information Architects: The Secret librarians of the internet”, the talk was based on both “Come as you are” and “Tags are magic!”, giving an overview of how I became an Information Architect, and some detail on how we tag up our content for the Guardian website.

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June 23, 2011

Changing the Guardian through guerilla usability testing

Today at the UPA Conference in Atlanta I gave a presentation entitled “Changing the Guardian through guerilla usability testing”. Here is an essay version of the talk.

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7 things I love about the new Guardian artist pages for Glastonbury

This week, in the run-up to Glastonbury, at The Guardian we have begun publishing the latest incarnation of our artist tag pages. These gives us an automated page for every artist playing at the festival, which mixes together our own content with content drawn from the rest of the web. It is an extension of the work that we did earlier in the year based upon the SxSW festival, and on some even longer-standing prototypes that our development team built in the middle of 2010 as a proof of concept. And this blog post is about why I am so pleased with them.

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June 17, 2011

“Come as you are” - Part 4: The Guardian years

This is part four of a five part essay based on my Polish IA Summit keynote talk “Come as you are”, looking at how I do my work at The Guardian.

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June 8, 2011 in an 1821 style

I’m not sure we made enough of this when we launched it the other week - the 1821 vintage edition of the Guardian website. Using a bit of CSS wizardry, some of our tech and design team quickly turned out an approximation of The Manchester Guardian’s first front page - but filled with today’s live news from the website.

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