New blog

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Friday, April 20

Bytes · YouTube duped - niche PPC - spindifferent

  • A teenager from Perth, Western Australia got hundreds of videos removed from YouTube by pretending to be Australia's BBC.

    The easy acceptance of fake 'take-down' requests was of concern to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

    They make the show featured in the clips, “The Chaser’s War on Everything”, whose highlights (no, really, it's funny - all right, it's a tad parochial) include - Dongers [M - Sexual references - the cinema rating being a legacy of Australia's Internet laws], burglary made easy, Abbott hybrids and wanker ringtones.

    Said Head of ABC-TV comedy Courtney Gibson, , who positively want the clips out there:
    "Everyone does dumb stuff when they are fifteen."

    "But what was of concern to us was the fact that YouTube was sending copyright infringement notices to people who have been uploading Chaser clips to YouTube, threatening to shut down their access to YouTube if they persist. That's what was worrying to us,"

  • Charities and non-profit organisations have been encouraged to 'think niche' to effectively run and manage pay-per-click campaigns.

    Speaking on the final day at Search Engine Strategies New York, Ettore Rossetti, associate director for internet marketing at Save The Children, said that charities and non-profit organisations need to focus when they launch PPC campaigns.
    "Being small, niche and narrow is better than being broad," he said. "Trying to be number one in narrow categories specific to your identity is often better than doing the same in broader categories where others are trying to do the same."
    I was recently searching around pregnancy and noticed both the NHS + directgov running PPC campaigns but not necessarily on the best keyphrases, e.g. 'pregnancy bath'.

  • A new “cook book” for citizen journalism — or any group interested in setting up a citizen media site or encouraging citizen participation in an existing site — is Hartsville Today: The first year of a small-town citizen journalism site [PDF 1.1mb].

    It shares the experiences of the first year of community site Hartsville Today. Documenting in detail the steps they took, from deciding on a web site domain name to training staff.
    “In addition to covering all the aspects, we think it is the first major extended study of such a site, the postings and their contributors,” says author Douglas J. Fisher on his blog, Common Sense Journalism.

    From the Guide:
    “You’ve got to know your community. You can’t just put a link up there and say, ‘OK, we’re open for the participation business,’ because no one understands what that means. ... “You need to keep it simple, make it fast and easy, and minimize the number of rules that you have.”

  • From Sam Smith:

    One of the reasons for doing was to make it possible to do US - UK comparisons of what the leaderships of the "Executive branch" (ish, in the case of UK) were saying on topics, and being able to look at them side by side.

    That site is and is open for business.

    As part of building that, someone had the idea that since the UN's Secretary General has an Official Spokesman, in the same way as the UK Prime Minister and the US Press Secretary, we
    could add them too. (but we're still waiting for the logo for it).

    One advantage that this gives spinDifferent is the change to look at where things come on agendas - look at the Sudan example, and you can see something that the UN is spending more time talking about something that the US and UK aren't that much. Looking at issues of interest in one or other countries, you see how they treat the same issues. In some, it's completely different (health), but there may be very different policies underneath.

    From About

    The picture at the top of the page is a picture of the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic - policies matter. See the difference in their view on trees. (Photo from "An Inconvenient Truth")

  • Thoughtplay big up the excellent new stats mash-up website, Swivel.
    Further to our observations on correlating T-shirt sales to political success, data fans will love Swivel - a site which invites users to submit sets of data of any kind, and then make daft (or possibly insightful) comparisons between them. For example, this chart want to suggest wine drinking and violent crime are mutually exclusive. No great surprises there, perhaps.

Wednesday, April 18

'Scaring the hell out of China'

Fascinating post by James Fallows on HuffPost about the reaction to the VTech massacre in China.

One reporter called the shooter as a Chinese student on the first night.

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed reported Monday that the Virginia Tech shooter is a 24-year-old man from China.
This was then picked up by FoxNews and Drudge - but no-one else - and it then reached China.

Very, very quickly, the Chinese government blocked web access to news stories and downplayed the news internally

All from just one reporter's error, and the story has now been removed (it can only be found here).

The American night was the Chinese day, so it was many hours before the rest of the media's reporting overwhelmed this one report in the Chinese mind.

This Chinese blogger described it as 'scaring the hell out of China'.
During the twelve hours between Sneed’s column hitting the shelves and the official statement, China was quivering. A host of international websites carried the story “Chinese student suspected of Virginia massacre” [Google has this]. The main international news agencies wisely chose to wait for the official statement much to the relief of Xinhua. Alarm bells were ringing on the eighth floor, which is home to the international news department, and there was a flurry of activity to work out how to report the nationality of the gunman.. the senior editors were delighted when “South Korea” was read out at the press conference. Back-slapping and congratulations ensued - one editor said that it would have been a inconceivable loss of face if the gunman had been Chinese.
As Fallows puts it:
Eventually the Chinese started to assume that it must be true. Otherwise, how could an American journalist dare go public, fast and alone, with a detailed claim sure to cause international ripples?

Sick profiteering

Profiteers moved in on the US campus massacre almost before the last shot was fired.

Domain names, and have already been sold. was offered for auction on eBay with an image of an assault rifle and described as the "perfect domain name for any memorandum or other site dedicated to the recent mass killings at Virginia Tech."

One asked for $100,000 for five sites in an ad decorated in American flags and described as "Great Domain Names for a Memorial Fund Development….Our Hearts go out to all the victims and families of Virginia Tech Massacre!"

The owner of says that he's been getting hate mail:

"I didn't think it through. I was just thinking about the money first."

Also being bought up are the victims name and has already been bought by The Etrader., and others using the victim's names are even selling PPC ads.

This reminds me of the Columbine killings, which was widely blamed on the Internet, where the makers of Web Filters within hours were using it for marketing.

Tuesday, April 17

Google domination nears total

Heather Hopkins reports that Google's UK search share is now 79%

The last time I updated the figures was for SES London in February. Since then, Google has gained 2%, up from 77.77% to 79.38% of the UK search market.
This is a very different picture to the United States, where Google is 50% of the search market by comScore and 64% by Hitwise.

Google's European share is lowest at 61% in Sweden and reaches 95% in Spain. In Australia it's 86%.

In Hong Kong, Yahoo! dominates, but in Singapore it's Google again. Baidu is top search engine in China.

Worldwide, comScore World Metrix has Google Sites 503,033 Total Unique Visitors (000) and Yahoo! Sites 458,985

Andy Kaveniac from writes me that Google is now near two-thirds US market.

On their blog:

Google just keeps going and going … almost puts the Energizer Bunny to shame. Google market share gained another 2ppts in March. So here’s a question. If Google gains one more point in market share, will we lose our veto power? That’s right, for all intents and purposes two-thirds of the 6.4 billion web search queries in the US pass through the Google servers.
(He's referring to the Presidential veto over Congress)

I should note the differences in numbers/shares etc. Anything which falls outside the normal variance is about the different counting methods, but the clarity of the trend does point to the best way to look at stats - compare yer apples with yer apples, otherwise look for the trends. Especially for non-full-timers ;]

Monday, April 16

The worst kind of homophobia ..

.. is the kind that comes masked in a smile or from an erstwhile friend.

Corny and, unfortunately, provocative I know. But it's something gay men get used to and it's pretty accurate for Michael Mullaney, a Councillor in Birmingham.

He's using YouTube to highlight issues which ordinary people have in his area. No problem there then, great use of technology.

The use of video comes clanging to the ground though when he and his colleagues focus on an issue which some locals have with some gay men who share the same park.

Here's how he calls it:

Anti-social activities in Highbury Park
This video is not for the easily offended. We describe anti-social activities in the historic Highbury Park in Birmingham and what the Council are going to be doing to reduce them.
It's difficult to know where to start (the video is just a classic).

It's him and a couple of others wondering around a park picking up condoms amongst some bushes and Oooing and expressing amazement at the presence of chairs.

Mate, it's a cruising area, as are hundreds of other areas around the country. Many are historic. It's the part of gay history which isn't found in Gay History Month.

In Hampstead they all live very happily together: the 'sex pests' and the 'happily marrieds' (yeah gods do you really think the two never meet!?), in a terribly nice and very English way.

I'll admit it here, I am a now middle-aged gay man who has distinct memories of having had sex in the open air in the past, like many, many, many other gay men - best (yeah gods I'll regret this but the moment calls for it ...) ever on a wonderful clifftop by the Pacific - and most of my straight friends who'd talk about such things have too (remote field of a hazy summer anyone?). But Cllr., when I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to get laid I absolutely didn't want to be seen by anyone else.

This is normal stuff, LIFE lived Cllr. Nothing at all wrong with it, especially if you use condoms.

Part of the travel industry practically sells itself on the promise of (heterosexual) sex on a beach. Maybe not your (excuse my presumption) 'happy family' life, though often the precursor, but a valid one nevertheless.

But, according to the Cllr., I'm a criminal along with probably most of the rest of the country. Us 'al fresco sex pests'.

Now he stresses, at length, almost to the point of satire, that he isn't homophobic. He has gay friends and even went to a parade. If this was straight people it'd be the same. blah, blah ..

To quote from his numerous comments accompanying the video:
"I'm a weird homophobe since I support gay marriage and gay couples adopting children. So how do you square that?"
Firstly, it's Civil Partnerships, not marriage and yes that is a very important distinction which marks second-class status, one fought tooth-and-nail over, and secondly it would be illuminating to know what - precisely - he is doing for gay people apart from turning up to events and supporting party policy and what everyone supports? His website appears to be empty.

A quick Google turns up news of increasing reports of homphobic attacks in Birmingham. Here's one:
I was sitting on the top deck of the bus in Birmingham when I felt something hit the back of my head. A group of school kids had started throwing stuff at me. I turned around and asked them to stop but they grouped up and started to kick and punch me. There were a number of people on the bus but not one tried to help me. I ran downstairs and reported what had happened to the bus driver, but he didn't take much notice. I got off the bus and went straight to the police station, where I got myself cleaned up. The most humiliating thing was that I have a colostomy and in the attack the bag had come off.

The police took all my details, but they could not find the CCTV footage from the bus; I discovered that day that it's not always on in Birmingham. No further action was taken against the perpetrators, and to this day I still cannot go upstairs on a double-decker bus.
We have an epidemic of anti-gay bullying in schools, ruining the life chances of thousands of gay kids every year, and politicians like Mullaney are completely disinterested.

So the video speaks for itself.

Whenever he refers to 'objectionable to the general public' it is clear what he's referring to - gay sex - and it's clear who he's addressing. Of course gay sex is 'objectionable' to [some] straight people (particularly straight men)! That doesn't mean you pay any attention Mr Representative of All Your Community!

Are you honestly trying to tell me that a dogging site would elicit this stuff? Point me at one single episode about dogging like his video. One.

Yes, I would want the place cleaned up as well and flashing and littering is bad, but public sex is a misdemeanour and it's the fact that he choose to use this as a campaigning tool for votes — ignoring or dismissing the effects — and that he ignores the plain fact that people have sex outdoors all the time. Including elsewhere in his area/every area.

Did you lose your virginity in the back of a car? Or a fumble behind the bikesheds? Never, ever, ever done it outside? Or were you one of his so-called 'normal' 'general public'?

Councillor, people do it because it's FUN and NORMAL. Remember fun? Some people think sex is fun. What a radical, LIBERAL idea.

What else does your sick mind think they're doing in that park? These "gangs of men"? Sitting around on chairs nattering, having sex + littering seems to be it. Anything else? Witch's covens? Paedophile rings?

From the comments the video's elicited, it also sounds like they are suffering homophobic attacks (which would be hardly surprising) but this of absolutely no consequence for Cllr. Mullaney. He doesn't even consider that he's giving bashers a guided tour.

Yes, we should all think about the consequences of our actions (not the least the Cllr.) but he sounds like a bloody Mormon! Yes, it's illegal but it's hardly smashing car windows and try measuring 'harm' here.

In his comments he comes across like he wants a War On Sex but it's really just old-fashioned NIMBYISM, he even owns up to that.

Did he ever think about trying to get the gay (and bi and straight) men using the park involved? Oh I forgot, all sex outdoors is ILLEGAL. Must be BANNED. BAN IT. BAN IT. I want the Daily Express vote and I want it NOW!

That this brings out the homophobes he blithely ignores, despite the endless comment accompanying this very video. He even ignores the worst HIV scaremongering. This is completely irresponsible.

The WORST is the stuff about 'and now you've got your rights and your pubs ...' He seems nothing but bewildered, as are many of the posters ('why do this when you people have pubs now?' Real Forty Acres and a Mule stuff ... )

Sorry but Nirvana hasn't arrived since we ain't equal yet - hadn't you noticed - and if you think discrimination isn't vast you are very ignorant indeed.

Councillor, take your patronising (look that up), heterosexist (look that one up too) crap and shove it.

And as for the gay people ready to shop their brothers for approval - for that's what it is ....

The only reason we have any rights at all is because some brave gay men took on the cops and the government when our existence was illegal — and some of them might be in that very park committing the extraordinary, call the dogs out, criminal act of having sex in the dark, in a bush. Think on.

In terms of online video, I find it quite scary. We know the BNP targets gay men, but this?

Outing's back: postscript

"I think of myself as phenomenally open," she says. "My children would say that, the people who know me would say that, the people who see me in the park would say that. Because when you have kids, you have to be open. Otherwise, what kind of message would that send? You can make a choice that brings them dignity or you can make a choice that's some hiding, shameful thing. I always choose dignity."
What about the other, lesbian kids with no role models, Jodie?

Michael Musto, my favourite gossip columnist, follows up on Out Magazine's Outing cover story (the one with with 'Jodie Foster' and 'Anderson Cooper').
By the way, I've been getting some light spanking myself for Out magazine's "glass closet" cover story about stars like ANDERSON COOPER and JODIE FOSTER who perform the delicate trick of living semi-out lives while not committing to being gay on the record.

In addition to praise, the story has incited the usual storms of outrage, and I honestly don't have the energy to fight the same old creatures who feel that saying a famous person is gay—even when he/she is hiding in plain sight—is a hateful, maligning abomination.

So I'll just link you to my Voice piece from two years ago countering the whinings about my last Out article on Cooper.

It's at

Then we can all go back to pretending we aren't interested in who anyone's fucking.

More Tesco

Had this response from Tesco to my final email:

I would like to assure you that I have recorded your views and will pass them on, together with any others we may receive, for the consideration of our Corporate department.

Thank you for bringing your further comments to our attention.
Does "together with any others we may receive" sound like an invitation?

Every little helps!

Here's your chance to do something — contact Tesco and tell them to start accepting Electron (they could do this TODAY).

Hearing the web

Excellent YouTube video very clearly demonstrates Screen Reader use.

This video shows the difference between a novice user who can only make use of basic functionality that screen readers offer and an advanced user who uses advanced functionality.

Sunday, April 15

Public service bloggers

The Guardian carries a special edition of their Society section with interviews with public service bloggers.

  • The consideration missing behind closed doors
    As an ambulance worker, 'Tom Reynolds' regularly attends calls at care homes for older people. He finds abuse and neglect is more common than he expected.
    I recently put in a report about a doctor who prescribed a "teaspoon of salt in a cup of lemon juice, to be taken three times a day" to a 93-year-old woman. An ambulance officer will be visiting the GP and investigating this dangerous advice.
  • The doctor - knotty problem
    When the NHS can't cope with demand for even the most common treatments, having no private insurance can ruin livelihoods and lives, says 'Dr John Crippen'.
    The last time a patient of mine with back pain was seen by a nurse-specialist he was told to "take appropriate analgesia on a time-contingent basis". This is a fine example of "nurse speak". I refer to it often. I am not good at foreign languages, I do not speak "nurse". I think she meant for him to take two paracetamol every four hours.
  • Reality bytes - extracts from the blogosphere
    A mental nurse, the father of a son diagnosed with schizophrenia, an employee of a Scottish council and a doctor at an NHS hospital recount their experiences.
    I realised very quickly that working in a government office had nothing whatsoever to do with helping to achieve mission statements or teamwork, and, as far as the voting taxpayers were concerned, well, they could vote and they could pay their taxes. After that, we could forget all about them and get on with raking in some reasonable salaries and employee benefits.
  • The policeman - on the run
    Life for a bobby on the beat means pursuing the same criminals, chasing endless paperwork and trying to keep up with the government's latest targets and laws. Mary O'Hara meets the man behind the Policeman's Blog.
    Senior officers ... emailed me to say 'this is the kind of thing that happens'. I'm saying things that they think as well. They can't say it publicly, so I'm saying it.
  • Power of the secret policeman's blog
    It would be foolish of the establishment to think that the questions by the blogger about modern policing can be ignored, says Patrick Butler.
    The ease and cheapness with which online blogs can be created and maintained is rewriting these rules. With the freedom of anonymity, public servants and service-users now have a largely unmoderated platform on which to tell it "how it is", connecting easily to the public and each other outside authorised channels.
  • I had a dream of getting a book published
    'Wandering Scribe' blogs about being a homeless woman living in a car. But some people suspect her story is a publicity stunt. Alison Benjamin reports.

  • Do you want to talk about it?
    The web creates a new citizen - state dialogue, says Paul Hodgkin.
    A new language is struggling into existence - a way for citizen and state to communicate that moves beyond the adversarial and towards a more nuanced public discussion of the thousands of micro issues that arise in a complex and networked information society where voice has been democratised.

Deputy candidates count friends online

Sanjaya Malakar

Hazel Blears

The BBC covers the appearance of UK politicians on social networking sites.

And produces a chart:


· Hilary Benn: 230
· Alan Johnson: 216
· Hazel Blears: 160
· John Cruddas: 126
· Harriet Harman: 65
· Peter Hain: 56

... which is entirely meaningless ...

The idiocy of what's going on being illustrated by one of Hazel Blears web managers:
"If you don't yet know why Hazel is going to win - here's a clue. We have just overtaken the Harriet Harman for Deputy Facebook group after just one day of the campaign... and that was a Sunday."
Sweetheart, I and a host of others could Game that on any day of the week.

In the US at the moment people are gaming American Idol to the extent that a complete no-hoper — Sanjaya Malakar — looks increasingly likely to win.

The article also sez that Peter Hain, Hazel Blears and Hilary Benn have set up pages on MySpace and Facebook (Bebo?). Whereas Alan Johnson and Harriet Harman "have had pages set up for them".

So Blears does her own pages does she?

Incidentally, only Hain gets either their Facebook or MySpace pages in the first 100 results for a Google search on their names! And for Hain: 'You must log in to see this page'.

The only Labour deputy leadership candidate to appear on neither Facebook or MySpace is John Cruddas. He has his own website [where he's offering red-eye pictures, like the one right, to journalists], but appears to have shunned the social networking route.

He has said he is suspicious of the internet as a political tool and has expressed concern Labour will use the net to create a "virtual party," rather than holding meetings and face-to-face debates.
Cruddas, whoever he is, is very right to be sceptical. But not of the use the web can be put to with politics.

A similar debate is happening with politicians 'engagement' in the United States where the Web has forced politicians — through satire, largely — to review their efforts.

That's what we haven't got here yet. If Guido Fawkes and that lame The Onion copy is the best we can do ...

Says Bill Thompson
"My fear at the moment is that UK politicians don't have an instinctive understanding of what to do on the internet.

"It has to be done. I doubt it's going to be done very effectively this time around."

Some embarrassment might help that process along.

Bytes · Google brain drain - little green hikers - 1 in 3 say resist ID

  • Revenue and Customs has set up a podcast service. One of the first is aimed at helping employers to file their end of year returns. It leads them through the process step by step, telling them what options are available and providing advice on other sources of information.

  • Google is suffering a brain-drain. Hundreds of the 2,300 Googlers hired before the Internet juggernaut's initial public offering in August 2004 are hitting their fourth anniversary. When they do, they'll be free to cash in the final portions of their pre-IPO options, collectively worth an estimated $2.6 billion before taxes.

    Stacy Savides Sullivan, Google's chief culture officer and a 43-year-old pre-IPO millionaire herself. "We anticipated more because we think it would only be natural. We worry every day about this and hope we can stay ahead of it."
  • On A List Apart, Martin Kliehm looks at the potential of Accessible Web 2.0 Applications with WAI-ARIA.

  • Directgov is now producing a 3G version with
    ' live travel information; quick guides to learning, money, homes and property; and the latest public announcements including terror alerts and severe weather warnings'.
    Doesn't this sound just like the BBC?

  • Trimble Outdoors has partnered with Google to provide Google Earth viewers with GPS-based interactive hiking information.
    The Trimble Outdoors Trips layer is found in the Featured Content selection in Google Earth ( The layer has premium GPS-enabled multimedia content (routes, waypoints, text/audio/video notes) from trips contributed by editors of the BACKPACKER, BICYCLING and Mountain Bike magazines, as well as trips shared by Trimble Outdoors users.

    To view the layer:

    * Start Google Earth
    * Go to "Layers" in the Sidebar on the left
    * Expand the "Featured Content" folder under "Primary Database"

    * Click the "Trimble Outdoors Trips" checkbox
    * In the main window, pan and zoom into the area of interest to you until you see red lines and dots indicating Trimble Outdoors trips
    * Continue to zoom in until you see little "Green Hikers":

    Depending on the zoom level and context, clicking a Green Hiker will open a popup window with detailed information about a trip or its element, for example a photo.

  • Google has launched Checkout in the UK. Merchants get free credit and debit card processing.

  • A programme to kick-start the use of internet communications in space has been announced by the US government. — The Department of Defense's Iris project will put an internet router in space by the start of 2009.

  • OutLaw reports that one in three people say they will resist identity checks using the new ID Card.

    In 2004 Mark Oaten, the then Liberal Democrat spokesman on home affairs, asked for figures to be published on the assumptions being made by Government about ID cards' use.

    The Government refused.

    Oaten's request was backed by the Information Commissioner and an Information Tribunal and the figures have now been released.

    · NO2ID:stop ID cards and the database state

Bytes · Youth write blogs - Sexcameron - London goes wifi

  • New research, My Digital Life, from AOP has 73 per cent of 18-24 year olds writing blogs or posting comments online on a weekly basis.

  • E-government@Large covers Phishing and comes to some scary conclusions about anti-virus software. "Even Domestos has had to abandon its 50 year old slogan 'kills all known germs dead' to say that it kills only '99 per cent of known germs'".

  • has become one of the first brands to let users get instant insurance quotes by entering details within the ad copy.

  • Firefox is battling IE7 through adding social features such as the Coop which lets users share favourite Web site links with friends.

    More at Mozilla Labs

    The Coop, sorted by friends
    The Coop, sorted by friends (alternate)
    The Coop, showing a preview of a friend's shared content
    The Coop, sorted by content type

  • Sexcameron takes choice clips of Dave on the stump and on his website and re-edits them to make it look as he's dancing to Justin Timberlake's SexyBack. Still waiting for someone to sex-up Ming ...

  • Guardian intervews Mark Anders, senior principal scientist at Adobe Systems.

    Why is Flash taking off again? "It's a combination of broadband and in the number of people being comfortable with it."

    How has it changed? "Flash didn't really have a developer focus. It always had a creative focus. But I joined to help develop the messaging and tools."

  • Blogging is now ten years old and there are now 70m of them around the globe.

  • Heather Hopkins has looked at site visits against likelihood to vote and found:

    · MySpace visitors least likely and
    · Facebook visitors most likely.

    In what must be a first, Guido Fawkes picked up on her comments on MySpace (but he saw it as somewhere for pollies to avoid - they don't vote).

  • The City of London has become Europe's biggest wireless internet hotspot.

    The network will span the entire Square Mile, and uses a new "mesh" technology to transfer users automatically from base station to base station as they walk by, allowing uninterrupted web use. Users will be charged about £11 a month.

  • Unlike the UK, anyone is now free to download maps and satellite photos of Canada from its Geogratis portal and create a business around them.

  •, Google, Microsoft Live Search and Yahoo! are now supporting 'autodiscovery' of Sitemaps.

    The new open-format autodiscovery allows webmasters to specify the location of their Sitemaps within their robots.txt file, eliminating the need to submit sitemaps to each search engine separately. More at

  • Google Blogoscoped looks at coverage of criticism of the Beijing Olympics on and asks
    "Is it good SEO in China to not speak critical of my government – are there any Google webmaster guidelines as to what may get you removed?"