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Saturday, May 5

Bytes · YouTube copyright - Apple greens- Online soap hit

  • A new study has shown that YouTube is overwhelmingly not relying on copyrighted content. Vidmeter says it's more than 90%. Takedown notices cover less than 6% of the views on YouTube. The Premiership is now suing them alongside Viacom.

  • Coming in very late: Michael Grade has announced that ITV "plans to learn from the mistakes of the music industry" and "keep control" of its content as that content moves online.

    It wants to make it's website ("The ITV portal to its television and programmes") the destination.

    Good luck to them but they've made themselves a rod through completely ignoring findability and viral buzz — no posting I'm a Celebrity viral nuggets on YouTube..

  • UK Online Centres — which are just about the only people addressing the digital divide — are under threat because of buck-passing on funding amongst Whitehall departments.

    In Singapore, they have a whole eCitizen Helper Service, which is a partnership with businesses.

    Need help to transact with the Government online?

    Don't worry, eCitizen Helper Service is available island-wide. The service offers free assistance for all citizens and residents to access the Government services online. Look out for our mascot at participating outlets.

  • Greenpeace have welcomed Steve Jobs promise that Apple will be greener. Jobs move follows a long and persistent campaign.

    "It's not everything we asked for. Apple has declared a phase out of the worst chemicals in its product range, Brominated Fire Retardants (BFRs) and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) by 2008. That beats Dell and other computer manufactures' pledge to phase them out by 2009. Way to go Steve!

    But while customers in the US will be able to return their Apple products for recycling knowing that their gear won't end up in the e-waste mountains of Asia and India, Apple isn't making that promise to anyone but customers in the USA. Elsewhere in the world, an Apple product today can still be tomorrow's e-waste. Other manufacturers offer worldwide takeback and recycling. Apple should too!

    Now, let's take it to the next level! An Apple green to the core!"

  • A San Francisco TV Station recently premiered a show online — it was a documentary — but a daily teen-aimed soap opera, is entirely online and already a minor hit.

    Prom Queen is averaging roughly 200,000 views a day, and has accumulated more than 5.2 million views since its April 2 debut.

    While relevant benchmarks are hard to come buy in this uncharted space, the show’s daily audience is equivalent to a low-rated cable series, though much smaller than individual clips of popular YouTube ‘series’ like lonelygirl15, which sometimes yield more than a million views.

    Web Shows is a Comedy Central project where “webisodes” that originated online will then make their small screen debut in July.

    Another example of an online-traditional TV experiment is Jack Black’s, which ties to a show on VH1.

  • The Register is reporting that fans who missed out on Glastonbury tickets are nevertheless being spammed.

    Michael Eavis runs the Glastonbury ticketing through the huge Mean Fiddler organisation and the Reg suggests that "data was somehow leaked".

  • Jacob Nielsen comments on eBay's reported record profits for Q1.
    In presenting the record numbers, the CEO, Meg Whitman, said that "the company had been benefiting from changes in the user experience that had increased the number of auctions leading to sales" (as quoted in The New York Times, April 19).

    This is a great example of the benefits of usability for e-commerce: income comes from multiplying the amount of use with the conversion rate. The more you improve the user experience of finding products, researching them, and buying them, the higher your conversion rate.

    Yet most sites invest vastly more in bringing in new traffic (increasing an almost-irrelevant "unique user" count) than they invest in making these users convert.

    The cost of doubling traffic is a hugely expensive advertising campaign. Doubling conversion costs a modest usability project to identify your users' main pain points followed by targeted redesigns of those elements. Much cheaper – and a sustainable advantage, whereas traffic brought in by ads will subside when your advertising budget runs out.

    In eBay's case, user experience is so important for profits that it's one of the main things the CEO mentions to the financial press in presenting the quarterly results. eBay has a particularly competent user experience department, but smaller companies usually find that a smaller usability effort can increase their financial performance materially. Your first usability test will uncover a gold mine of low-hanging fruit, to mix metaphors.

Friday, May 4

Bytes · MySpace doomed? - New crime: WiFi theft - Forget green backgrounds

  • Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales reckons MySpace is doomed.
    "There's way too much advertising and they're not really respecting their own community."
    He may be right.

  • Good to see that the BBC is going big with the Guardian's story about misfiring anti-paedophile policing. Trumpeted for snaring 4000 who'd downloaded child porn, Operation Ore was actually based solely on credit card transactions - and fraud was never allowed for.

    This story
    from 2004 shows just how lives are ruined just by accusation.

    At the same time, The Internet Watch Foundation is reporting that the most distressing grade of images account for nearly a third of all reports of child pornography it receives.

  • Two people have been arrested for using other people's wireless connections without permission in Worcestershire, in what are believed to be among the first cases of their kind.

    A man was spotted by residents using a laptop while parked in his car outside a house in Redditch. In an unconnected incident, a 29-year-old woman was arrested following a similar incident, also in Redditch, earlier in the month.

  • On the back of the huge success of Flash Video (YouTube etc.), Adobe has launched it's own Media Player, built on open standards and interoperability, to take on MS's.

  • Here's the take-aways from: Colorblindness - A Usability Guide for Commercial Applications - By Anthony Mitchell, TechNewsWorld.

    · The safest route to legibility in screen and print layouts is to rely on black fonts and white backgrounds.
    · To place blue or green backgrounds behind black fonts decreases the contrast and degrades readability.
    · The use of red or dark green backgrounds also degrades readability, regardless of font color.

    Other points:

    · Colour blindness is primarily a Caucasian male issue and affects around 10% to some degree.
    · Be careful with colour coding.
    · The lighter the font, the harder it is for colorblind people to read.
    · Don't use red text for highlighting in forms

Thursday, May 3

Bytes · iGoogle goes haywire - Blogging stalls? - AdWords malware

  • Your Google homepage is now iGoogle. Mine's fine but it's been going haywire for others, which has led many to question Google's data security. If they lose your homepage settings, what about all the rest of your files and email?!

    This is Google going down the personalisation path, with MyMaps and Web (not just Search) History, docs and spreadsheets all coming together in one, online Suite.

    Over the next year, more bits will be added. Google appears to be quite open about using existing members as guinea pigs and promise no personalised adverts — yet.

    What is also new with this is that you'll be privy to all the data Google already holds on your surfing.

    The end benefit is expected to be something like this:
    The more we give users the opportunity to give us data, the more we can do with it and the greater our coverage will be. One thing that we noticed was that the longer people use personalized search, the more queries that it impacts and that’s for two reasons: The first is that the more we know about their search history, the better it becomes. The second is that people who are just starting to use search history have been used to unpersonalized search, so they tend to oversimplify their query. For example, they type in something like "Boston Public Library" when in their head they're thinking "Public Library". They translated because they think the search engine needs that extra step of specificity. When they use personalized search they realize that the search engine will give them the right result for "Boston Public Library". They tend to make less specific queries over time, shorter queries and it's quicker and easier for them. And this affects more and more of their searches. So two things happen. One is that personalized search becomes more effective with the more history we collect and the second is that user’s behavior changes, the queries become easier and more natural to them, rather than what they think the search engine needs to understand.
    Sep Kamvar, engineering lead for personalization at Google
  • Active blogging has stalled, according to new numbers from Technorati.

  • Security software maker Exploit Prevention Labs claims to have uncovered hard evidence that malware distributors are using advertisements placed via Google's automated AdWords system to infect unsuspecting end-users with virus code.

  • is a US version of MySociety. Similarly, it creates custom data mashups that use information scraped from public databases to draw correlations between every vote cast and every dollar spent in Washington.

    Information re-presented by the site has already helped defeat pro-logging legislation in California. They are developing widgets which would enable political blogs to track the effects of campaign contributions on congressional votes.

    Wednesday, May 2

    Google Earth and Archaeology

    Postscript: Hurrah!

    I tried putting one of Google Earth's videos into this post and it went haywire. Literally, in the blogger edit post WYSIWYG it was flashing. But I managed to perform a dance - Hit button ... Now! Try again! Now! Delete! - and got it back ... video's here.
    has an piece examining the use of Google Earth by archaeologists — both professional and amateur.

    Many archaeologists regularly use it to find otherwise hidden sites.

    An Italian computer programmer playing around on Google Earth's images near his home in Parma discovered the ruins of a villa [kmz]dating to the early Roman Empire.

    Many enthusiasts have created layers, placemarks and added additional information.

    Find the Archaeology is a game on the Google Earth community bulletin board where people post an aerial photograph of an archaeological site and players must figure out where in the world it is or what in the world it is.

    Campaigners have also been using Google Earth to highlight World crises, such as global warming (layers showing rising sea levels) and Darfur (which shows smouldering villages).

    This uses Google Earth files which use network links and GE 4 features to show increasingly higher resolution photos as you zoom into areas of concern.

    For example, you can see cases of ethnic cleansing where whole villages have been destroyed between March 2006 and November 2006.

    Tuesday, May 1

    Sound of my own voice

    Strange experience today. I haven't actually heard my voice for several years and I got an opportunity to And it's changed.

    I was on a panel discussing 'Web intermediaries' at a PSF Customer Services event in Cheltenham (gorgeous spot, very long way away) and it's been Podcast (aka recorded).

    Thankfully, I don't sound as ranty as I thought I did — more like the mad professor, I can live with that — but my accent's changed. I sound Northern when I thought (or thought I thought) I sounded Southern.

    Though maybe it's just my perception of my accent.

    I don't have any tapes left of myself, to compare, though I used to do radio, and after I lived in Australia everyone picked up on that. What Ocker there was seems to have gone ....

    As I said, strange. And faintly disturbing ...

    Against disabilism - Ensuring accessibility

    Today is 'Blogging against disabilism' Day and it's timely. I've got the issue on my mind right now. Plus I'm attending a conference on the subject tomorrow.

    So what is disabilism and what's this day about?

    Well firstly, the term's possibly unfamiliar, like a fair few 'isms'. You'd think it means either something esoteric or what you think it means.

    It's the latter. It's discrimination:

    Says Wikipedia:

    'Ableism is a term used to describe discrimination against people with disabilities in favour of people who are not disabled.

    Advocates of the term argue that ableism is, like racism, and sexism, a system by which main-stream society denigrates and devalues those with disabilities, while privileging those without disabilities. In extreme cases, morality, worth and intelligence may even be equated to being ablebodied or ableminded, while disability is conflated with immorality, stupidity, and worthlessness.

    An ableist society is said to be one that treats non-disabled individuals as the standard of ‘normal living’. This results in public and private places & services, education and social work that are built to serve 'standard' people, excluding those with various disabilities.

    The presumption that everyone is non-disabled is said to be effectively discriminatory in itself, creating environments which are inconvenient or inaccessible to the disabled. Inclusion means that all products, services, and societal opportunities and resources are fully accessible, welcoming, functional and usable for as many different types of abilities as possible. An ableist society tends to isolation, where an inclusive society tends toward sociability and interdependency[citation needed].

    In the U.S., the Americans with Disabilities Act enacted into law civil penalties for failing to make a public place accessible to individuals with certain impaired abilities and/or using standard assistive technologies. In the UK, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and 2005 attempts the same. There are also disability rights activists attempting Inclusion movements in various countries.

    The caveat empor to all this, in my opinion, is the issue of resources — you cannot avoid it, although often the issue is circumvented. Because for a society to (truly) grant access rights, for example, usually requires resources. And 'rights' can and do clash.

    Some of the societies I've worked with have few resources to start with, so this issue resonates differently around the world and is not universally the same.

    In those societies which don't resource the severely disabled for example — because they can't — I wouldn't want to see our Western, privileged view prevail. Or, god forbid, a religious or PC one.

    Where in my view 'disabilism' should be sited is human rights, because in different societies it's the value of a human being, for what they can contribute, which counts.

    So, should it in ours.

    If you start from that point, our society has the resources to enable many more citizens. It's a human right we can easily uphold if we choose to. And the daily cases in the UK where people have made no effort for disabled people - laughed at the effort, pitied it and upplayed it - should be understood as denial of human rights.

    Having worked with and seen just how powerful computers and the web can be for disabled people, denying that — especially for reasons like so we can pay 1p less on our petrol tax for example — just feels like denial of the rights of fellow humans, fellow citizens. We collectively decide where our resources go.

    The Day was set up by the blog 'Diary of a Goldfish' and this is the second year. And the aim is "to write about disability and rail against the discrimination that disabled people continue to face".

    JackP told me about it and I jokingly replied that I'd ranted on the subject only that very day in an email. We both work for councils. My comments come largely from that viewpoint, plus I don't live this subject (so I'm kindof hoping this has been said).

    See, what bugs me is technical talk, and - worse - mere technical comprehension, about accessibility. I'm fed up with it.

    Not because it's not important — it's essential — but because it amounts to a very small hill of beans in the end.

    No. Technical accessibility is largely, straightforwardly fixable with the truly difficult being ensuring that it actually, consistently happens — humans, able bodied ones, are the issue. Even all the complicated stuff thrown up by web 2.0 and mass Flash usage will be technically fixed. Partly by the market.

    But it's largely also not prioritised — there is a very strong 'all or bust' vibe and hence a key, real world driver is often plain guilt — and this leads into my main point/hurdle.

    What I'm thinking about is ensuring accessibility, which can be seen within my wider peer community, in my view, as 'the next stage' when really, my point is, it's the only stage.

    I'd like to post this, on this day, as a different way of speaking about this subject. Ensuring it.

    And the only way I can think you can do that is by being led by disabled people, led by the user, just as you should be with web development generally.

    But is this what happens? No. Whilst you're 'fixing the accessibility' do you actually know if disabled people consider you accessible? Do you ask them? Can they answer you - do they have the capacity? Is it only one type of disability you ever hear from? Is what you are making accessible of any use? Has the accessibility software you've just blown your budget on done anyone any good?

    Do you do things on disabled people's behalf?

    Thinking more widely, doesn't the website actually reflect the organisation? If your council hasn't got it's act together in lots of other areas are you just making innacurate or incomplete information accessible?

    So many web developers in my group whinge on about technically getting accessibility right. Why? What are you making 'accessible'? Are you actually letting down disabled people or have you just convinced yourself you are? Did a disabled person tell you you are?

    These are questions I could have posted many times to comments within my community on this subject.

    See how far we've actually got to go, just conceptually, in considering 'accessibility'.

    For me, in thinking about this is does come back again and again and again to the user and being led by them.

    How many accessibility conferences in the public sector have had no disabled attendees?

    How on earth can we (the abled) know what to prioritise?

    I have a story with this. I saw an incredible piece of kit, on CSI of all places, called Trekker. Now the poor blind woman in peril (that's a new one) had one of these and - F*** me - it showed her which floor she was on. GPS genius. Bye bye Baddy.

    Now being a boy, I loved it. But one of my blind (female) friends practically salivated at the thought.

    Thing is, bought wholesale, back-of-an-envelope, this piece of kit (on it's own, no training, believe me that would self-organise as if by magic) could be delivered to every registered blind person in my city for well under a million pounds. But the value, the liberating value, would be many, many times that. A million in the scheme of things is nothing and you could easily make a business case.

    When I was on a conference forum once and mentioned this story, though, a fellow panellist from a blind people's group (who wasn't blind) gave me the right old eyeful.

    I can see why. It's 'off-message' and all a bit 'pie in the sky'.

    Why? Because we're settling for so much less. There's no roadplan to get to Trekker for all.

    One of the things I've always noticed with minorities (I wonder why, could be the 'gay' thing ... ) is that those people asking for their rights are 'militant' and the rest are 'grateful'.

    What minorities want and what they get given are very often, maybe always, two different things.

    Well I'm sick of pity and gratitude too. Let's talk human rights. Same as one of the reason's we're getting rid of anti-gay discrimination is because all society loses because of it, we need to resource disabled people to our society's capacity.

    Resources and priorities. Sticks and carrots. Let's move to Ensuring from Compliance.