Friday 26 December 2008

Not Sure What This Says About IPhone Users

According to the MacRumours site, the most popular app for the Iphone at the moment is the Ifart, which as you may have guessed makes fart noises and on the 22nd December, sold 13,274 copies.

Shopping Versus Worship on Christmas Day

On Christmas Day, I accompanied my extended family to our local church and was surprised to find that for the main service, it was only half full.

Despite being a fully paid up agnostic, I found this rather sad and wondered where everyone else was.

According to the BBC web site, it appears that they were waiting for the sales to start online.

To quote the article More shoppers online at Christmas

More than five million people are expected to use the Internet to carry on shopping on Christmas Day, the online retail group IMRG says.

IMRG estimates more than £100m will be spent online, compared with the £84m spent last year.

The shopping figure compares with the four and a half million people who attend a Christmas church service.
While I don't believe in God, I do like to think that Christmas day is the one day when people relax and spend time with their families, rather than crouched over a computer.

It seems to rather kill the spirit of Christmas or perhaps I'm just getting old....

Thursday 25 December 2008

Louis Theroux and a Lesson in Extremism

If anyone out there is foolish to think that the only faith that has extremists are Muslims should sit down and watch the the excellent Louis Theroux documentary called the Most Hated Family in America.

He spends time with the Westoboro Baptist Church who picket the funerals of dead soldiers killed in Iraq as a protest against an America that tolerates homosexuality

Whats scary (as with all extremists) is that they are absolutely convinced that they are right. 

While they are currently only picketing churchs, synagouges and even hardware stores that sell Swedish goods (you'll understand when you see it), you can see how they could easily progress down the road to direct action or violence if they felt that Americca was slipping further away from them. 

Watch it on BBC IPlayer (short time only) or on Google Video

Tuesday 23 December 2008

What Planet is the Pope From

Good to see that Pope Benedict XVI has got his priorities clear.

According to the BBC news web site today - Gay groups angry at Pope remarks
Speaking on Monday, Pope Benedict said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour was as important as protecting the environment.
So lets get this straight - two men or women in a same sex relationship are just as much danger to the world as climate change, melting ice caps and all the other major changes that are starting to happen.

And they say that modern organised religion is not relevant any more....

Monday 22 December 2008

Bernard Madoff and the Emperor's New Clothes

Cast your mind back nearly ten years to the dot com boom and recall the times when the financial geniuses in Wall Street, the City and VC funds were busy investing in 2nd or 3rd rate schemes that clearly had no chance of actually making in money.  Half of them will admit that they knew there was no chance of making any money, but no-one wanted to appear to missing out in a golden opportunity, with even Warren Buffet being criticised for not investing.

Compare those times to the classic childrens story, the Emperor's New Clothes where no-one wants to tell the king he is being swindled. Everyone could see he had no new clothes, but didn't appear to want to be foolish.

Contrast this with the Bernard Madoff affair and you realise that in this case, the whole financial community didn't even see he had no clothes on, they genuinely believed that his were made of gold.

While people such as Nicola Horlick bleat that its not their fault and its the fault that of the regulators for not being tough enough, consider the following

1. Returns Were Far Too Consistent
Year on year, the firm returned consistent returns of 12% whatever what was happening on the market. As Henry Porter described in his article in this Sundays Observer
Daniel diBartolomeo, a physicist and number cruncher from Boston was asked to look at Madoff's figures and compare them with those of a firm that was pursuing exactly the same strategy. 

No matter how much regression analysis he applied to Madoff's numbers, he could not reconcile the two performances. The analysis was passed to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which ignored, then forgot it, a measure of how lax things became under the Bush administration
At what point did alarm bells not start going off with fund managers that this seemed a little strange. I pay a 1% management fee on my unit trusts and pensions and I'd like to think that whoever is looking after my funds was doing some basic due diligence into things like this

2. You Only Got Paper Returns
RBS had over £400 millions invested, Nicola Horlicks fund had £33 million invested (10% of its fund) and apparently the fund didn't provide electronic statements, preferring paper.

This seems rather odd when virtually any high street bank lets you download electronic statements to analyse in Excel

Didn't the analysts at these funds think this was rather strange considering the amounts they had invested, or perhaps no-one wanted to say anything for fear of being called a fool

3. The Company Was Audited By A Three Man Team
Having worked with companies who have been bought out, I know stressful the due diligence process can be with people looking into every nook and cranny of a company.

Strangely this process appears to have been overlooked here with no-one thinking it strange that that a $5o billion fund or to lay it out in full, $50,000,000,000 fund was audited by a company whose three employees appeared to consist of , a secretary, another being a retired senior partner, and the third, a shadowy figure who dropped in a few evenings a week.

One hopes that this messy affair will give fund manager a good kickup their backsides and get them actively thinking about the pros and cons of the companies that they invest in rather than just following the crowd.

Classic Album Covers - Lego Style

While you'd be tempted to think that some people have got better things to do with their time, this Flickr slideshow should bring a smile to your face, although it does have a rather literal interpretation of the word classic

Thursday 18 December 2008

Dispelling Common Myths

Both the BBC and the Guardian covered the yearly dispelling of myths by the British Medical Journal. This years myths included

  • You lose most of your heat through your head
  • Hangover cures actually work
  • Sugar in food casues hyperactvity in children
What's fascinating is how these myths came into being. The head and heat story comes from a flawed experiment carried out by the US Army in the Artic in the 50's.

If you're interested in why some of these ideas stick around, I'd recommend
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. Only halfway through it so far, but very interesting.

Wednesday 17 December 2008

How many ways can you read a book?

Kevin Kelly, one of the founders of Wired has reissued one of his first books New Rules for the New Economy as a RSS feed.

While you won't always agree with what he says, this and other books such as Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines are always thought provoking.

He's always said that the print additions were merely a first step in publishing and would republish them in new formats as they emerge.

Kelly has already republished them as PDF's and sees RSS as the next step as it will allow people to comment on specific sections of the book.

This is certainly a very interesting concept as it allows both the author and reader to have an almost realtime interaction that only a couple of years ago would have been impossible

His post explaining this in more detail is New, New Rules for the New, New Economy

Tuesday 21 October 2008

And on a lighter note

Check out

No further explanation required - just enjoy

Obama and the Christian Right

There is a great article in todays Guardian called Evangelicals start soul-searching as prospect of Obama win risks Christian gains in politics which looks how the Christian evangelical movement are facing up to losing their special position in the White House.

There is a great quote in the article

"Has Obama through mass hypnosis figured out a way to bypass the critical faculties of all Americans?" asked Brian Sherman, a church volunteer.

This probably sums up the Christian right inability to see the bigger picture outside the abortion and gay marriage debate.

Strange how they get so upset about these items, yet so quiet on the whole financial crisis, when the bible makes far more references to the lending of money with interest than it does about homosexuality.

Have they forgotten about Jesus casting the money lenders out of the temple?

Monday 13 October 2008

America, Please Don't Vote For Sarah Palin

I've been meaning to write this blog for weeks, but things kept on getting in the way, but after reading the papers today, I thought, I've really got to get this posted.

After reading in todays Guardian

In one rally Palin accused Obama of "palling around with terrorists"; in another she said he was "not a man who sees America the way you and I see America". The comments have prompted individuals in the increasingly restless Republican crowds to shout, presumably in reference to Obama, "Kill him!" and "Off with his head!" Palin made no effort to rebut the hecklers, and it prompted the influential New York Times columnist Frank Rich to complain that "to stay silent is to pour gas on the fires".

I decided I really needed to get my thoughts down on why she shouldn't be elected, as she quite frankly scares me.

1. Supports Creationism - with the world needing all the best scientific and technological brains to tackle climate, we could have someone who believes the world is only 10,000 years old and that kids should be taught this

2. Doesn't really believe in global warming - unlike John McCain, you get the feeling she doesn't get what a huge problem it is going to be. Weirdly, up to last year she was denying that it was even a problem

3. No Foreign Experience - like Dubya, she has only been out of the country once before and look where that sort of experience has left America

4. Palin opposes a woman's right to choose what to do with her own body, opposing the right to an abortion even for rape and incest victims. 

5. She likes the idea of banning books without even reading them - do you really want her in charge of protecting the first amendment?

While she is standing for Vice President, John MCain is 72 and has a history of cancer. While he is fit as a fiddle at the moment, do you really want someone with as little experience as Sarah Palin, as the president if Mccain was to die in office?

Monday 6 October 2008

Time: Being On It And Cherishing Others

As my wife knows, I hate being late, so this post on the importance of
  • Being on time
  • Cherishing someone elses time 
from Seth Godin really struck a chord.

One Way To Restore Confidence In The Financial System.

Have you noticed that there have been very few bankers on our TV screens saying sorry for the current mess. No wonder, the American public was a little reluctant to bail them all out last week

Now while there are some very deep rooted issues, one quick and easy to restore the public faith would be for everyone to forgo this years bonuses.

By everyone, I mean everyone - from the CEO's all the way down. That way no single person is held to blame and everyone shares the pain.

You might say this isn't fair on those people at the bottom, but last time I looked, people employed in the city of London still get paid more than people doing an equivalent job elsewhere.

This way, the general public sees that the whole financial sector is prepared to take some pain as well, and the money saved on these bonus could go a small way to recapitalise the banking system.

Hopefully none of these people are relying on their bonus to see them through - one would hope they have all been prudent to save some of their hard learnt money.

Monday 8 September 2008

Watch What You Say On Facebook

If you've ever contributed to a public group or a discussion forum on Facebook, your comments may very well end up in the Google and other search engines results.

If you want to see what people are saying on a particular topic, just copy and paste the following line into the google search box and add "word or phrase you're looking for"

For example,

Alternatively, you can use Google Alerts to monitor what people are saying as it happens

Monday 1 September 2008

How To Spot The End Of The Recession

A couple of weeks ago, Google released their Google Insights for Search which allows you to see at which are the most popular words that people are searching

If you're trying to spot the end of the recession, my friend Matthew Tod has come up with a great idea. Enter terms such as payday loans and IVA and see the volume of searches increase over time. When the volume peaks and starts going down, this may mean people are more confident about the economy.

Here's a screenshot of the three terms over the last 4 years and a link to the actual results. Payday loans are in blue and iva are in red.

Avinash Kaushik has a great post on his blog - Competitive Intelligence Analysis: Google Insights for Search which goes into far more depth of this great tool.

Wednesday 30 July 2008

Segways are not toys anymore

When the Segway was first launched they were very popular in Silicon Valley and no where else, due to the fact they were costly, banned from most pavements and couldn't nip past a car in a traffic jam like a bicycle.

Kevin Kelly and Paul Saffo points out the large number of law enforcement and army units that have adoped the Segway and turned it into something that was fun into something quite scary.

Check out the Kevin Kelly Blog for a great collection of photos

Thursday 29 May 2008

Someone At The BBC Is A Spinal Tap Fan

Looks like someone at the BBC likes Spinal Tap so much they have added a little in joke to the Flash Player used on the site.

Take a look at their new Flash Player and you'll see that it goes all the way up to 11.

If the above means nothing to you, then

a) Watch the clip below from the film

b) Buy or Rent - This Spinal Tap. You'll either think its the one of the funniest things you've seen or just think its stupid.

Thursday 22 May 2008

Is this the end to Death by Powerpoint

Having sat through too many dull as dishwater PowerPoint presentations and software demos, I found the following presentation fascinating. Its by Dr John Medina, the author of Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School.

Thanks to the always excellent FutureNow site for pointing this out

Meetings - An Excuse to waste time?

Meetings either seem to go very well or are a complete waste of time.

Seth Godin posted this image to his blog which sums up what a lot of people think about meetings.

Sunday 18 May 2008

The Strange World of Dr Who and Knitting

Those of us in the mid 30's age range can probably recall with fond memories, the Tom Baker years of Dr Who. While they will always be those who claim that Pertwee, Davidson or even David Tennant is the best, Tom Baker for most of us is the best Dr.

Part of the charm, was the ridiculous long scarf that he wore at all time and which seemed to serve no purpose.

According to Lucy Mangan in Thursdays Guardian, there is a whole new sub culture around Dr Who and knitting. Its all come to light after the BBC threaten to sue a knitter who was giving awayknitting patterns for the Ood and Adipose aliens. While she was charging for them, someone else was selling them on Ebay and the poor old BBC felt threatened.

Read The Guardian story - Hands off the Doctor Who knitting circle

Read the BBC's version - Dr Who fan in knitted puppet row

Carrot and Orange Soup Recipe

Our organic box delivery has landed us with a surplus of carrots recently, so I decided to convert most of them into a soup.

The soups inspiration came from A Celebration of Soup and make 8 portions.

The ingredients are

  • 500g of peeled and chopped carrots
  • 1 peeled and chopped onion
  • 1 large orange
  • 1.5 litres of vegetable or chicken stock
  • Sprig of thyme
To make the soup

  1. Melt the butter and a glug of olive oil in a saucepan
  2. Add the onion and carrots and sweat for ten minutes on a low heat making sure they don't brown
  3. Remove the zest from the orange and add it to the carrots and onions while they are sweating
  4. Add the stock and bring to the boil
  5. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes
  6. Using a hand blender, puree under you have a good thick consistency
  7. Juice the orange and add to the puree just before serving
If you want to make the soup in advance, add the orange juice just before you serve the soup.

Thursday 1 May 2008

Government ditches plans for free home energy monitors

One of the things that has become clear over the last year, is that trying to convince people to change to a low carbon lifestyle by frightening them simply doesn't work.

Andrew C Revkin in a New Yorks time article Challenges to Both Left and Right on Global Warming interviewed the author Michael Shellenberger who pointed out that "Martin Luther King didn't give the ‘I have a nightmare’ speech, he gave an ‘I have a dream’ speech".

The UK government had been planning to compel energy suppliers to handout £15 monitors that attach themselves to your power meter and show how much energy you use, but appears to have backed down to energy industry pressure who say this may complicate the roll out of smart energy meters. However, these meters are not due to be fully rolled out until 2020

We've got an OWL Wireless Energy Monitor from the Ethical Superstore and its been great in working out what uses lots of power. Friends of mine have used it to educate their children on power consumption and who now know the effects of leaving items on standby.

So what's so complicated here? Nothing that I can see apart from the fact that we might all start consuming less power and that's not necessarily a good thing for the power companies. That may sound a little cynical, but why else would then object.

The full article on this is Government ditches plan for free home energy monitors

Playing the politics of fear

As a former politics of student, this years US presidential election is shaping up to be very interesting and especially the battle for the democratic primary.

What I have found fascinating is how Hilary Clinton and her team have been using all the best republican tricks to try and discredit Obama.

Take for example, her recent mention in a speech of Louis Farakhan, who had once met the Obamas radical pastor. While clearly there is no link with Obama, why mention it unless you want to sow fear into the minds of the white population.

Michael Crowley article There's real danger to Obama in a cry of 'snob' highlighted exactly why character is so important in the US elections and how the Republicans in the past have so skillfully exploited it

"The man knew whereof he spoke, for character largely explains how Bush won two presidential elections. In 2004, torture and beheadings were the norm in Iraq. Yet Republicans substantially focused the election around John Kerry's persona. He was a flip-flopper, a windsurfer and snowboarder, a Swiss-educated man with a slightly 'foreign' mien. Never mind that Bush was the wealthy son of a former President educated at both Yale and Harvard - he was the 'regular guy'.

Amazingly, one poll taken just before the election showed that pro-Bush voters cared more about 'character and strength of leadership [than] how a candidate stands on the issues' by a nearly three-to-one margin. Is it any wonder American politics is the subject of ridicule and derision around the world?

It had been the same story four years earlier. A long stretch of peace and prosperity had made Al Gore clear favourite to succeed Clinton. But the GOP skilfully caricatured Gore as a pedantic snob, a know-it-all who allegedly claimed to have 'invented' the internet. That defamation campaign, in turn, was modelled after the 1988 ridicule of Michael Dukakis as a product of pointy-headed academic Boston"

Just in cast you'd forgotten how much the Republicans exploited Iraq and 9/11 four years ago, watch this video

Monday 21 April 2008

Words & Phrases and how they found me

The journalist John Kelly writes in todays Guardian about the weird words that people have entered into the search engines and ended up at his blog and how they are most likely to be disappointed.

Now that I've posted 101 items to this blog, I thought I'd check my Google Analytics and find the five weirdest combinations of words that brought people to the site and they are in no particular order.

  1. long bobs
  2. snow will worsen it
  3. ross on wye witchcraft
  4. good bush bad bush t-shirt
  5. charles 1 civil war kids
Johns Kelly article is here

Sunday 20 April 2008

Colour Photos from the 1930's and 1940's

Somehow America seems to be light years ahead of us in the UK when it comes to releasing information into the public domain. For example, the Library of Congress has released 1615 colour photographs onto Flickr and not put any copyright restrictions on them to encourage their viewing and distribution. In contrast, check out the Guardian newspapers Free Our Data Campaign

View the slideshow

or visit the 1930s-40s in Color set on Flickr

Wednesday 16 April 2008

Why Can’t A Building Be As Eco-Friendly As A Tree?

Interesting article from the 'Green' Issue of Vanity Fair which interviews architect William McDonough who wants to start a new industrial revolution based around smart design.

Rather than design from cradle to grave which is based around manufacture, consumption, and rubbish, cradle to cradle is in McDonoughs words "does not just reduce waste, it eliminates the concept of waste,” and says that products be manufactured in new ways that will allow them to be reduced to their essential technical or biological elements in order to be re-used.

If you have a spare 20 minutes, check out the talk he gave at TED 2oo5

Who Says Bill Gates Hasn't Got A Sense Of Humour

Unlike Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computers, it looks like Bill Gates knows how to poke fun at himself.

This 5 minute spoof based on the indie film Napoleon Dynamite, shows just why

Mutualism - Why we all need each other

Olivia Judson in the New York Times writes a fascinating piece on how different species work together in harmony. Examples include the shrimp goby, a small fish that warns the shrimp of any danger in return for shelter.

While one would expect in these relationships to break down with one side turning into a parasite, it appears that the ability to cohabit and share allows both parties to evolve more efficiently.

Something perhaps us humans could learn from...

Tuesday 15 April 2008

Monday 7 April 2008

Ben Elton, Comedy and Islam

Those of us of a certain generation (i.e. getting close to 40) will remember a time when Ben Elton didn't just write books and shameless Queen musicals. Those were the days of Saturday Night Live and some good alternative political comedy and satire.

Ben Elton has made some interesting points on how while the BBC were happy to poke gentle fun at the Church of England in shows such as the Vicar of Dibley, jokes about Islam were deemed unacceptable.

I think he has it spot on when he says

"I think the concept that faith in itself is a good thing should be questioned from day one. There’s a presumption that if you're a religious leader you are in some way already halfway up to the moral high ground and your opinion has more relevance than anyone else's."

As someone who could describe himself as an agnostic verging towards atheism, I see no reason why we need to be deferential to any religion.

Religion to me is like politics - its there to be debated, discussed and challenged and shouldn't allowed to be set to one side because someone feels uncomfortable about having their openly held beliefs debated. If you're going to cast moral judgement on other people, expect to be able to stand your ground.

If you want a good example of this, check out this brilliant debate on the Life of Brian between John Cleese, Michael Palin, Malcolm Muggeridge and the Bishop of Southwark (its about 2 minutes in)

Climate change target is not radical enough

When one of the worlds leading climate change scientists starts saying that current targets are not radical enough we really should be sitting up and taking note.

James Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York argues that the current targets of 450pm are not enough and may result in the collapse of the polar ice caps in hundreds rather than thousands of years.

Whats interesting and potentially very frighting is that rather than base the research on computer models, the new research includes analysis of CO2 taken from the bottom of the ocean which is millions of years old.

James Hansen was the scientist who frequently clashed with the Bush white house over what he saw as attempts to censor his work. He originally backed the 45oppm limits, but now wants this revised down to 350ppm, due to the a greater understanding of slow feedback mechanisms (as suggested by James Lovelock)

The full story can be found at Climate target is not radical enough - study

Sunday 6 April 2008

Wouldn't it be great if all shops did this

One of the companies that I work with, Hawkins Bazaar recently had a customer come into their shop with a 24 year old credit note which they honoured and reduced her bill by £2.03.

Its just nice to know that instead of trying to grab every last penny from you (First Great Western are you listening), some companies know the value of a happy and satisfied customer.

Whatever business your are in, next time an opportunity like this presents itself, use it to keep your customer happy as they're bound to tell 5 more. Alternatively, go for the penny pinching route, be glad you made an extra couple of pounds and wave goodbye to that customer and their friends.

Thursday 3 April 2008

Who's The UK's Al Gore Equivalent

If you had to single out one person who had done the most to promote the threat that global warming is to this planet, Al Gore would be the person a lot of people would mention.

This week he launched a three-year, multimillion-dollar advocacy campaign to generate a groundswell of public opinion in America to massively reduce carbon emissions.

Whats interesting is that he is getting support from all sides of the political spectrum with adverts containing bipartisan pairs, such as the Rev. Al Sharpton with Pat Robertson and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with former GOP Speaker Newt Gingrich. In the case of the former, these two wouldn't normally ever share a room let alone an advert.

Where is the UK's equivalent? Ask anyone in the UK to name a prominent environmental campaigner and most people would struggle to answer. Tony Blair appears to be putting himself forward, however his record in office hardly suggests that he is the right man for the job. If you take a look at the Guardians top 100 environmentalists, you'd be hard pressed to find a household name.

More information on Al Gores campaign can be found at

Tuesday 1 April 2008

Roundup of April Fools

It good to see some companies can still take the micky out of themselves.

This years jokers included

Have You Been Rickrolled?

Rickrolling is the new game that seems to be sweeping the Internet at the moment. The idea is to provide a link to something that appears to be useful and instead they they end up at this You Tube of 1980's pop legend Rick Astley.

No one seems to have explained why Rick was chosen for this honour, but his most famous song, Never Going to Give You Up has been performed by people demonstrating against Scientology among others. YouTube currently has 288 videos tagged as RickRolled

More information can be found at What does it mean to be Rickrolled?

Tuesday 25 March 2008

Heston Blumenthal's Garlic Wine - How to make your risotto sparkle

This little tip comes courtesy of Heston Blumenthal first cookbook - Family Food: A New Approach to Cooking which is full of really easy recipes (and not like the next two which are great, but you really do need at least 72 hours for each recipe)

All you need to is :

  1. Take one bottle of white wine - ideally one that you've been given and which you have no desire to drink as its probably cost no more than £3.
  2. Pour into a pan and add 10 crushed cloves of garlic. If you don't have garlic press, I recommend the Easy Peel Garlic Press from Lakeland.
  3. Add half a teaspoon of crushed peppercorns
  4. Add a handful of chopped herbs such rosemary or thyme
  5. Boil for 5 minutes and let cool
  6. Store in an airtight container such as the original wine bottle with a Wine bottle stopper
Strain before use and use where you normally would use white wine in dish

Note: Don't try tasting it raw unless you really love Garlic! The flavour works really well in the dish as it time to mingle with the other ingredients

Wednesday 19 March 2008

How Geckos And Cats Land The Right Way Up

If you've wondered how cats and geckos always manage to land on their feet when fall, its all down to their tails apparently.

Scientists at the University of California filmed geckos falling and saw they used their tails in the air to right themselves as the video shows (about 30 seconds in)

I first read this story in the Guardian which also has a video of it. I've linked to the YouTube video instead so you don't have to watch an annoying 30 second advert by Ewan McGregor about Davidoff Adventure. before you can watch the film.

Note to the Guardian - check out how the New Scientist does it with a simple logo at the beginning.

Monday 17 March 2008

Google Calendar & Microsoft Outlook

As a user of both these applications, its been a real pain trying to sync both applications, but luckily, Google has now released an app that will sync both together.

I havn't tried it yet, but if it works it will certainly save me a lot of time.

Greed Is A Weapon of Mass Destruction

For the last couple of weeks, I've been trying to put together a post that sums up what I feel about the current messed up financial system that we have landed ourselves with.

Luckily, Will Hutton in yesterdays Observer, did the job for me in an excellent piece called A deluded Wall Street threatens the world economy.

In it, he dissects exactly what has gone wrong and asks if it right that a company such as Bear Steins can have $11.8 billion of assets and $395 billion of debts and wonders how many more banks will go under before the situation remedies itself.

Wednesday 12 March 2008

Nature - Really Close Up

The finalists of the Welcome Image Awards were announced recently and the photographs are stunning. They remind you just how sophisticated and complex our enviroment is and how much we still have to learn

The Guardian printed them as a centerspread and they can be viewed via the Wellcome online gallery


Judges overturn libel ruling on restaurant review

Tuesdays Guardian reports that the northern ireland courts have overturned a decesion to award damages to restaurant who said they had been libelled in a review. Goodfellas pizzeria had been awarded £25,000 last year after they sued for libel.

I'm glad that the ruling has been overturned, as one of the most enjoyable parts of the papers at the weekend is reading either a really great review or a really scathing review and it would have been a shame if the media became afraid to print a bad review because they might end up being sued.

We'd then be deprived of gems such as

  • "I may not be able to call it the worst cooking in Britain, but that's only because I haven't eaten in every restaurant in the land."Jay Rayner, the Observer, on Jaan in the Howard Hotel, Temple Place, London, 2002
  • "Occasionally, you come across a restaurant that causes you to question the very nature of human existence."Matthew Fort, the Guardian, on Opium in Soho, London, 2001
  • "It is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine anyone conjuring up a restaurant where the food in its mediocrity comes so close to inedible." Fay Maschler, the Evening Standard, on Chittagong Charlie in Golders Green, London, 1992
The full story can be found here - Judges overturn libel ruling on restaurant review

Tuesday 11 March 2008

German Navy Boats Crashing - Youtube Video

Couldn't resist posting one last YouTube video which has been doing the rounds. The title is fairly self explanatory, but you do wonder how with such a wide expanse of sea, radar and a full crew they still managed to crash into each other.

The Guardian cover the incident and a whole series of unfortunate mishaps in a article called German navy finds new enemy - itself

Its official - Google offers search within a site

The Google blog has confirmed that the search within a site option will be offered to users on an increasing basis. To quote from the blog...

Through experimentation, we found that presenting users with a search box as part of the result increases their likelihood of finding the exact page they are looking for. So over the past few days we have been testing, and today we have fully rolled out, a search box that appears within some of the search results themselves. This feature will now occur when we detect a high probability that a user wants more refined search results within a specific site. Like the rest of our snippets, the sites that display the site search box are chosen algorithmically based on metrics that measure how useful the search box is to users.

As per my earlier posts, if you're a site owner that relies on advertising revenue this could have some fairly serious consequences.

You can read the full post at Search within a site: A tale of teleportation

Could There Be No More Honey in Ten Years Time?

The Guardian has a worrying story on how colony collapse disorder which has affected bee colonies in the USA could be coming over to the UK.

In the US, up to 80% of colonies in some states have been destroyed and this has a knock on effect when it comes to pollination. Defra estimates that bees contribute £165 million to the UK economy by pollination farmers crops for free, so it seems a little strange that the UK government can't find £8 million to fund research into ways to stop this.

Perhaps someone should give the Hilary Benn, the environment minister a basic biology lesson in how the food chain works and what happens when you start removing an important part of it

James Lovelock touches on items such as this in his excellent The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth Is Fighting Back - and How We Can Still Save Humanity. While he concentrates on climate change in the book, his explanation of feedback loops illustrates what can changes happen and how the can have far greater effects elsewhere.

The full Guardian article can be read at Honey bees 'wiped out in 10 years'

How secure is your password?

Microsoft has released a new tool that allows you to see how secure your passwords are by ranking them as either weak, medium or best.

If your current passwords don't come out too well, I can highly recommend the Random Password Generator for creating passwords.

As well as creating good random passwords, it allows you to set options such as

  1. Showing the phonetic version
  2. No Similar characters
which are very useful when you need to create an account for someone who isn't very IT literate.

Monday 10 March 2008

Google Searches in Google Results Part 2

It looks like the Google search sites on the search results page is part of an experiment as only certain people are seeing this. In fact some people (you know who you are), suggested that I just photoshopped it.

So that you can all see, I've created a screen movie that shows it in action.

Here's for the techie bit. I created it using Techsmith Camtasia and exported it as SWF file. The file is being hosted on our Fileburst FTP server.

Welcome to the blogsphere...

You wait ages for your friends to start blogging and then all of a sudden, two start at once.

I'd like to welcome to the blogsphere

Leigh Caldwell who is blogging on business knowledge and businesses/professional services

Mark Saunders who is writing for Accounting Web on all matters accounting.

I know both from BRX Westminster, a central london business network, which also serves an excellent breakfast.

Friday 7 March 2008

Jack & Hillary - The Alternative Video

According to the BBC News website, the official Jack Nicholson video has now been viewed over 1.2 million times.

It's therefore, not surprising that a Barack Obama supporter decided to raid his own collection of Jack Nicholson videos to create this parody which is just as good as the original.

Whether either of the videos actually persuades anyone to vote for either of the candidates is yet to be seen.

Shouldn't be long now before someone decides to mashup 24 and Keifer Sutherland to support one of the candidates.

Wednesday 5 March 2008

Jack Nicholson Hillary Clinton Endorsement Video

Much as I think Jack is backing the wrong person, this advert is great as

  1. It knows the audience would prefer clips of Jack to Hilary's speaches
  2. Manages to get 7 key messages into the clips
  3. Engages the audiences for probably a full 78 seconds - longer than most political adverts
  4. Has great viral potential - currently viewed 378,000 times on Youtube
  5. Easy to link (as we're doing here)

Google Search in Google Search Results Page

Looks like Google has slyly introduced a new facility that allows you to search the content of a site without having to go it. This isn't new technology and has always been available in the advanced search, but ask most people about advanced search and they'll have never even noticed it.

Enter ebay into Google and you may see the following (I think Google are still experimenting with it and it doesn't always appear.)

What is really sneaky, is that if you are looking for something specific such as a Timberland Boots, Google will then show you the pages that contain the words Timberland boots with PPC adverts on the right hand side, therefore making money for them and reducing the chances of people going to ebay.

Big thanks to Hugh Gage over at Engage Digital for spotting this.

Monday 3 March 2008

Your brand vs what you offer - whats more important?

Whenever I consult with a client about search engine optimisation we always have a debate about whether their company name should appear at the beginning of the title tag. This is the heading that appears at the top of every page and more importantly, in the search engine results.

The title tag is critical as it allows you to summarise the page and provide the potential visitor with a reason to visit the page.

Normally we say to the client that unless you are a well know company, concentrate on describing what the page does and the value it offers a visitor as your company name will mean nothing to them (yet).

In the example above, our client is number 1 in Google for the phrase microsoft project hints and you can see the title tag clearly tells people what the page does, which results in lots of traffic for our client Project Learning Limited. At this stage, potential visitors are looking for some very specific information, so we need to give them a reason to come to the site.

Jakob Nielson has written a good article on when you should and shouldn't use your company name in the heading and titles on your site.

His tips include:

  • Within your own site, deemphasize your company name
  • Research results and where junk appears, make sure your's are clear
  • Make your title tag obvious so that the benefits are clear.

You can read the whole article at Company Name First in Microcontent? Sometimes!

Sunday 2 March 2008

What happens when you stop posting to your blog

A quick glance at the blog posts over the last six months, would show you brief bursts of posting activity, followed by weeks where nothing gets posted at all. I mean to post most days, but something else normally gets in the way.

Between the 6th of January and the 28th of Feb, I managed to write absolutely nothing on my blog and Google finally caught up with me.

Taking a look at the graph below. Up until the 25th of Feb, I had a fairly regular 15 to 20 visitors a day and now its down to 5 or so a day.

The stats are from Google Analytics. If you don't already have it on your web site, I suggest adding it today as you get some real insight into how people are interacting with your web site.

Somewhere deep in the Google algorithm, there is no doubt a cut off point that says once a blog has become inactive for more than 7 weeks, reduce the ranking of the previous posts.

I've certainly learnt from this - post more often and regularly.

Tuesday 26 February 2008

A Few Good Creative Men

Found this gem courtesty of Matthew Tod, courtesy of his Facebook Super wall. Somone must have really worked hard on the Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise accents as they are spot o

Guess that some people in video editing suites just have too much time on their hands.

Sunday 6 January 2008

Trees absorbing less CO2 as world warms, study finds

For all those people who were hoping to offset their carbon rich lifestyles by planting a few more trees, there's some bad news. According to Thursdays Guardian

"The ability of forests to soak up man-made carbon dioxide is weakening, according to an analysis of two decades of data from more than 30 sites in the frozen north.

The finding published today is crucial, because it means that more of the CO2 we release will end up affecting the climate in the atmosphere rather than being safely locked away in trees or soil.

The results may partly explain recent studies suggesting that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing faster than expected. If higher temperatures mean less carbon is soaked up by plants and microbes, global warming will accelerate"

It appears to be part of the long awaited and feared feedback loop whereby the increasing temperature has an impact on the surrounding environment and quickens the change.

An example of this is Siberian frozen tundra which currently has millions of tonnes of methane gas locked away. However as temperatures rise, the tundra melts and releases the methane gas. Methane is a worse climate gas than CO2 and again will help increase the planets temperature.

The full Guardian article is Trees absorbing less CO2 as world warms, study finds

An fuller description of how feedback loops can effect the enviroment can be found in James Lovelock book - The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth Is Fighting Back - and How We Can Still Save Humanity

Jamie, Hugh and Gordon's Big Food Fight Trailer

As part of Channel 4 Big Food Fight season which looks at the state of the British Food industry, Channel 4 have been running this great trailer, where Gordon Ramsey, Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall appear to be taking part in team building exercise, while slying taking the mikey out of each other.