Recent posts in my Web Category

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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January 10, 2013

The word “click” will become a generational marker

Rather like grandparents fondly referring to the wireless, my generation are going to carry that word “click” in our vocabulary to describe interactions long after anybody last used a mouse.

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January 8, 2013

“Maybe if you’re here, you’re already dead.” - AP’s sponsored tweets and the long slow death of our industry

Is it just me? Or does it sometimes feel like the whole of the internet is screaming at the news industry: “Jeez, you guys really need to innovate more and hurry up and get yourself a new business model”. And then the response to any attempt at a new model is “But not that one.”

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January 7, 2013

“Computing’s too important to be left to men”

A very short blog post about women in tech.

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January 4, 2013

One day my daughter will ask me how we tolerated this

If my daughter grows up and wants to go into tech, and is still faced with events where organisers think it is OK to have 22 male speakers out of a possible 22 speakers, she’ll be entitled to turn around to me and ask why I didn’t make a fuss when I could.

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September 5, 2012

Hold ye front page - someone is wrong about the internet

You might have seen an image doing the rounds on the web which appears to be The Sun reporting on the invention of the World Wide Web, and comparing it to the Sinclair C5. Much hilarity ensues. Of course the image is a fake.

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August 30, 2012

The lost art of RSS reading

When I was teaching “So you think you want to be a UXer?” at the Guardian the other day, I gave a list of five websites that I thought were essential regular reading for any budding UXer. I suggested they pop them in their RSS reader to generally blank looks all round. I prompted for a show of hands, and out of a group of 40 people - who were all involved in making the web in one way or another - only a couple put their hands up to admit to using RSS readers.

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August 2, 2012

Why I have (some) sympathy with the people behind the Olympic ticketing website

It seems that like most of my Twitter timeline I spent a good deal of last night futilely pounding my fists on my laptop keyboard trying desperately to get any joy out of the London 2012 Olympics ticketing website. After a while, hypnotised by the queue animation graphic, I got into a zen-like state where I began to ponder how you could possibly end up designing a system that worked this way.

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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 21, 2012

Behind the scenes at the ITV News redesign

Design agency Made By Many hosted a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of the digital relaunch ITV News this week. Here are my notes on how they didn’t just redesign a website, they redesigned a newsroom.

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June 13, 2012

My quick opinion of the Times Opinion on Tumblr

The Times new Opinion Tumblr doesn’t signal a retreat from the paywall - if anything, it potentially raises the “value for money” that customers think they are getting.

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June 6, 2012

Forcing Hari to link only shows up how much the rest of the news industry doesn’t

The rehabilitation of Johann Hari continues apace with the publication of a column from him in GQ. The fact that he is being made to link out in footnotes is being seen in some quarters as a punishment. If only it was just normal best practice.

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June 1, 2012

The great EU cookie wangdoodle

Some thoughts on what I’ve been calling the great EU cookie wangdoodle, including how I’d like people to re-think the complexity they are forcing on the user.

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May 23, 2012

Platforms not pages - solving problems with The Atavist, n0tice and

Three very different things I’ve spotted this week have illustrated a nagging thought in my mind that if you are purely focused on publishing web pages into the desktop environment, you’ve probably taken your eye off the ball.

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May 22, 2012

“It’s all about content. It’s not about content” - Giles Colborne’s IA Summit Redux at London IA

Last week we had the latest London IA evening, featuring a packed programme with an IA Summit theme, as Tim Caynes and Johanna Kollmann reprised their talks from New Orleans, and Giles Colborne provided an overview of the event. As ever, Sense Worldwide were our hosts, and Zebra People our sponsors. Here are my notes from Giles’ talk.

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May 17, 2012

Please carry on learning to code

Every time I see someone retweet Jeff Atwood’s article “Please carry on learning to code” my heart sinks a little. I’ve got to respect his personal achievements, but on this I think he is spectacularly wrong-headed. Here are four reasons why.

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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 2, 2012

Would you vote for that web design? London Mayoral campaign sites reviewed

We seem to have matured beyond declaring each year that this is “going to be the internet election” to having campaign web sites and social media as an integral part of the political cycle. Here are some notes I’ve made whilst looking at the sites of the candidates for tomorrow’s London Mayoral elections.

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If even Google and Facebook are struggling with the pace of change - what chance media companies?

Reading pieces by Eric Jackson and Peter Kirwan yesterday leaves an awkward question hanging in the air. If Google and Facebook are really struggling with the impact of disruption to their business models from changes in trends on the internet, where does that leave media companies, many of whom haven’t really got to grips with web 1.0 yet?

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April 30, 2012

From display:none to display:relevant - Why “Responsive IA” is vital

You can’t be involved in digital product design and not have heard the buzz-words “responsive design” - building one URL that changes the information and design displayed as you access it with different devices with different screen sizes. The Boston Globe has won awards for doing it in the news space. A key component of a successful “responsive design” has to be a flexible and responsive IA.

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April 27, 2012

Marketing newspapers like it is 2003

Small details can tell you so much, can’t they? The Newspaper Marketing Agency haven’t updated the copyright notice on their website since 2003. Presumably because it is a GIF file.

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April 19, 2012

NYT in 3D

April 17, 2012

London 2012 - as it was announced on the web

Tomorrow you’ll be inundated with articles, blog posts, interactives, TV news packages and special supplements celebrating that it is 100 days until the Olympics start in London. So I thought I’d be different and look back instead - here are some of the web screengrabs I took in 2005 when it was announced that London would be hosting the games.

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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 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 10, 2012

Embedding objects in your news web site? The future may not thank you

Embedding tweets and Storify in news sites is all the rage to provide a quick snapshot of public opinion. But what are people actually storing in their CMS - and will all this vanish in the future?

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March 20, 2012

A thoroughly refreshing approach to news design from ITV News

This week ITV News relaunched with a site that made a radical break with the one they had before, and which frees itself from a lot of the baggage that usually comes when designing a news site. It certainly still has some rough edges, but it is a fascinating approach.

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February 27, 2012

Hacking data to build trust -’s Damian Kimmelman at Hacks/Hackers London

This month’s Hacks/Hackers London meet-up had a business theme to it, and the first talk was from Damian Kimmelman about The site - recently shortlisted for a Guardian MEGAS award by a judging panel that I chaired - brings together a host of data sources about businesses into one aggregated service. Here are my notes from the talk.

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February 24, 2012

Journalist-centred design for the CMS

This is my contribution to February’s Carnival of Journalism. The topic this month, set by Steve Outing, is “What emerging technology or digital trend do you think will have a significant impact on journalism in the year or two ahead?” I’m hoping it might be journalist-centred design for the CMS.

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February 19, 2012

Bad websites ruin the internet, not “Graphic designers”

I had quite a rude awakening from Twitter on Sunday morning when someone contacted me about John Naughton’s Observer column: “Graphic designers are ruining the web”. The users in the comments have done most of my blogging for me...

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February 18, 2012

“Pinterest is dead / over-valued / causing divorces” and other assorted forthcoming memes...

A quick glimpse into the future and some of the blog posts and stories I expect to see written about Pinterest in the coming weeks and months...

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February 14, 2012

“Social media, investigative journalism, ethics and security” - Nicola Hughes at news:rewired

As part of news:rewired earlier this month, there were workshop sessions on skills like SEO and datajournalism. Leading one of the sessions was Nicola Hughes, aka DataMinerUK, teaching people how to use social media for search. Here are my notes from a session that raised interesting issues of ethics and security for investigative journalists using social media.

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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 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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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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February 3, 2012

“The Guardian’s Facebook app” - Martin Belam at news:rewired

At news:rewired today I was part of a panel discussing optimising news sites for social media. I talked about the Guardian’s Facebook app. Here is an essay version of the talks.

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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 29, 2012

Online newspaper metrics? The grey lady doth protest too much, methinks

There’s been quite a fuss around the latest set of usage figures for news websites, with comScore suggesting that Mail Online has overtaken the New York Times as the world’s leading online newspaper. The Times has taken the odd step of both disputing the figures and the relevance - saying the inclusion of thisismoney distorted the number by adding an extra million or so. Spokesperson Eileen Murphy added: “a quick review of our site versus the Daily Mail should indicate quite clearly that they are not in our competitive set.” The grey lady doth protest too much, methinks

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January 26, 2012

“Pulling the news from the social media noise” - Storyful’s Markham Nolan at #cmLDN

Last night I went to the Community Managers meet-up in London. Markham Nolan was talking about how Storyful sources social media content from accidental citizen journalists.

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January 23, 2012

Happy “Community Manager Appreciation Day” 2012

Today is “Community Manager Appreciation Day”. If you’ve ever taken part in online community, used UGC for research or entertainment, or chased up story leads from comments left across the web, you probably owe it somewhere to an unsung community manager. I’m not normally a big fan of organised recognition, but I believe, especially in the news space, that community management is a dangerously under-valued skill.

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January 16, 2012

There is more to “women in tech” than booth babes

There is always debate about the value of pseudonymous comments on websites, but I thought this comment underneath Kate Bevan’s recent piece on Comment is free about booth babes at CES summed it up perfectly.

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January 11, 2012

SEO is dead. Again.

The launch of Google’s “Search, plus Your World” launch has started a round of people exclaiming that SEO is dead. Again. I’m trying to find out exactly when the fatality took place - and the earliest claim I can find is March 2005.

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January 10, 2012

Even if we can’t legally define journalism, we should at least define our journalistic principles

An Oregon judge has inadvertently sparked a wider debate about the nature of journalism, as Cleland Thom reported for the Press Gazette. I think a public set of principles is one key way for publishers to set themselves aside from the general hubbub of the internet.

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January 9, 2012

Don’t expect the IOC to understand social media at the London Olympics - their website lives in 2009

Paul Adams, an ex-Googler now at Facebook, has written a great blog post about why the announcement that volunteers at the London Olympics won’t be able to use social media is not just King Cnut-like, but a missed opportunity. It is no surprise the IOC doesn’t understand social media.

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Social media stories with happy endings

Everybody loves a social media story with a happy ending - by which I don’t mean that PR stunt about that other Martin guy. Here are two that have caught my eye over the last few days, involving a student trying to get an internship, and the Muscatine Journal in Iowa.

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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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December 9, 2011

“Presents for all!” - my festive #jcarn post

I’m hosting December’s “Carnival of journalism” on the Guardian Developer blog, so it would be a bit remiss not to join in myself. As neither a hack nor a hacker, I thought I'd take the liberty of answering both variations of the question...

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December 2, 2011

BBC homepage redesign - behind the scenes 2002-style

The BBC has been taking a lot pf public stick for their redesign of their web homepage. Here is a quick look behind the scenes at how the design process for the page took place back in 2002.

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November 28, 2011

“Hackovation” - Dan McQuillan at Hacks/Hackers London

At last week’s Hacks/Hackers London meet-up Dan McQuillan was talking about “Hackovation: how social innovation camps, crisis camps and other hacker movements are trying to go beyond the headlines”. Here are my notes.

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November 7, 2011

Why are men such cocks on the internet?

Here is a miserable set of reading if you: 1. Like the internet. 2. Are a man. 3. Would prefer it if you lived in a society where it wouldn’t be acceptable for someone to threaten your mother, sister or daughter with rape and sexual violence for the dreadful crime of expressing their opinion on the internet.

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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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November 1, 2011

“Searching 1,000 years of history at the National Archives” - Tim Gollins at Enterprise Search Europe

At the recent Enterprise Search Europe conference where I was talking about search on Guardian Books and the future of search, the most entertaining and illuminating talk I saw was by Tim Gollins, Head of Digital Preservation at the National Archives. Here are my notes from his talk.

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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 24, 2011

Chris Sumner on Twitter tracking at Hacks/Hackers London

Here are my notes from Chris Sumner’s Hacks/Hackers London talk about using tools to map social networks across the web, and what that means for information security and digital journalists.

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October 20, 2011

Journalism archaeology of the internet - Wendy Grossman on copyright, Scientology, and a world without search at Hacks/Hackers London

I wasn’t able to make last night’s Hacks/Hackers London, which is a shame, as it is always a great night, I’ve always enjoyed seeing Heather Brooke speak, and it would have been brilliant to catch up with the BBC’s George Wright who I used to work alongside in Bush House many moons ago. George has published his slides about the BBC’s R&D department. Seeing all the tweets reminded me that, for one reason or another, I never got round to posting my notes from last month’s Hacks/Hackers. So here they are...

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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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October 3, 2011

“Serendipity: The Hope and the Myth” - Oli Shaw at London IA

At London IA last week, Oli Shaw was reprising his EuroIA talk about serendipity. It is, he said, a lovely word on the tongue, but has been rated as one of the hardest English words to translate into another language. Here are my notes from his talk.

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September 28, 2011

“Fill in the IA gap” - Mags Hanley at EuroIA 2011

This is my final set of notes from last week’s EuroIA conference in Prague - covering Margaret Hanley’s closing plenary session.

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September 27, 2011

“The Rise and Fall...and Rise Again of Information Architecture” - Bob Royce at EuroIA 2011

I’ve been gradually working through the remaining notes I made on my trip to Prague to speak at this year’s EuroIA. One of my favourite talks was more heavily focussed on software engineering than anything else on the conference programme, which put a big smile on my face. Here are my thoughts on Bob Royce presenting “The Rise and Fall...and Rise Again of Information Architecture.”

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